H1N1 Tied to Risk of Seizures in Children

A new study revealed a higher incidence of neurologic complications in pediatric patients treated for the H1N1 influenza virus.

Children who contracted the 2009 H1N1 virus had a higher risk of neurologic complications than those with seasonal flu, according to a study published in the September issue of the journal Annals of Neurology. The most common neurologic symptoms among children with H1N1 were seizures and encephalopathy, the researchers found.

The encephalopathy patients experienced was also resistant to treatment by traditional means, said lead author Josh Bonkowsky, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine. “The absence of proven treatments for influenza-related neurological complications underlines the importance of vaccination,” he concluded.

Dr. Bonkowsky and colleagues reviewed the medical records of 303 pediatric patients, aged 18 years and younger, who were hospitalized for H1N1 between April 1, 2009, and November 30, 2009. The University of Utah team compared those records to the cases of 234 children who were hospitalized for seasonal flu between July 1, 2004, and June 30, 2008.

Their investigation uncovered a range of neurological complications in 18 of the children with H1N1. Of those 18 children, 66% also had underlying medical conditions that impacted their nervous systems. Seizures and encephalopathy occurred most frequently in this group, affecting 67% and 50% of patients, respectively. More than half of the children with seizures entered the hospital in a state of status epilepticus, a term used to identify persistent seizure activity that lasts longer than 5 to 30 minutes.

In the seasonal flu group, neurologic symptoms were observed in 16 children, but none had encephalopathy, aphasia, or focal neurological deficits, and only 25% had underlying medical conditions. “We found that more pediatric H1N1 patients had neurological deficits and required ongoing treatment with anti-epileptic medications upon discharge from the hospital,” Dr. Bonkowski said.

For other articles in this issue, see:

  • Pharmacy Service Trumps Price in Patient Survey
  • Following the Flu on Facebook and Twitter
  • House Expedites Bills to Prevent Rx Abuse and Diversion