Background: There are few and debated data regarding possible differences in the clinical presentations of influenza A/H1N1, A/H3N2 and B viruses in children. This study evaluates the clinical presentation and socio-economic impact of laboratory-confirmed influenza A/H1N1, A/H3N2 or B infection in children attending an Emergency Room because of influenza-like illness.Methods: Among the 4,726 children involved, 662 had influenza A (143 A/H1N1 and 519 A/H3N2) and 239 influenza B infection detected by means of real-time polymerase chain reaction. Upon enrolment, systematic recordings were made of the patients' demographic characteristics and medical history using standardised written questionnaires. The medical history of the children was re-evaluated 5-7 days after enrolment and until the resolution of their illness by means of interviews and a clinical examination by trained investigators using standardised questionnaires. During this evaluation, information was also obtained regarding illnesses and related morbidity among households.Results: Children infected with influenza A/H1N1 were significantly younger (mean age, 2.3 yrs) than children infected with influenza A/H3N2 (mean age, 4.7 yrs; p < 0.05)) or with influenza B (mean age, 5.2 yrs; p < 0.05). Adjusted for age and sex, children with influenza A/H3N2 in comparison with those infected by either A/H1N1 or with B influenza virus were more frequently affected by fever (p < 0.05) and lower respiratory tract involvement (p < 0.05), showed a worse clinical outcome (p < 0.05), required greater drug use (p < 0.05), and suffered a worse socio-economic impact (p < 0.05). Adjusted for age and sex, children with influenza B in comparison with those infected by A/H1N1 influenza virus had significantly higher hospitalization rates (p < 0.05), the households with a disease similar to that of the infected child (p < 0.05) and the need for additional household medical visits (p < 0.05).Conclusions: Disease due to influenza A/H3N2 viral subtype is significantly more severe than that due to influenza A/H1N1 subtype and influenza B virus, which indicates that the characteristics of the different viral types and subtypes should be adequately considered by health authorities when planning preventive and therapeutic measures.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported in part by MedImmune, and in part by the Italian Ministry of Health (Bando Giovani Ricercatori 2007). We would like to thank the Italian Study Group on Influenza: Laura Cesati, Laura Gualtieri and Emanuela Laicini (Milan, Italy); Andrea Papaleo and Luigi Cantarutti (Padua, Italy); Domenico De Mattia (Bari); Paolo Siani (Napoli); Ilaria Sala and Maria Cristina Diana (Genoa) for their contribution to study enrolment; and Shahjahan Miah (London, United Kingdom) for his technical assistance.
- A/H1N1 influenza virus
- Viral subtypes
- Viral types