Page last updated at 03:44 GMT, Thursday, 31 December 2009

Children more likely to catch swine flu, study suggests

Girl blowing nose
Children have been hard hit by the swine flu virus

Children are twice as likely as adults to catch swine flu, according to a joint UK-US study.

Imperial College London researchers and a team from the US looked at how the virus spread among families.

In a study of more than 800 people, one in eight people developed the infection after someone in their house got it.

But the team also dismissed suggestions that children may be "super spreaders" as they were found to be no more contagious than older people.

Rates of swine flu have tended to be higher among younger age groups, the official figures have shown.

If they are only likely to transmit the virus to other people for the first few days of their illness, keeping people off work for a week may be unnecessary and could be detrimental to the economy
Dr Simon Cauchemez, lead researcher

What is more, there is thought to be a large pool of children who have been infected but not displayed symptoms.

This research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, confirmed that children were more likely to become infected.

The team looked at the families and household contacts of 216 people infected with swine flu.

Of that group of 600, the under-18s were most likely to get it - twice as likely as adults under 50 - while those over the age of 50 were the least likely.

Infectious

However, the overall one in eight figure for infections was deemed to be pretty low compared to past pandemics.

The researchers, who were also drawn from the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at how long people remained infectious as well.

They found the average length of time between one person displaying symptoms and then someone else in their house falling ill was 2.6 days.

They said it meant suggestions at the start of the pandemic that people should stay at home for up to seven days when ill was probably unnecessary.

Lead researcher Dr Simon Cauchemez said: "If they are only likely to transmit the virus to other people for the first few days of their illness, keeping people off work for a week may be unnecessary and could be detrimental to the economy."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "All further information continues to add to our knowledge and understanding of the virus."



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