The cold weather snap has already started to impact on children’s health, with the first cases of the seasonal respiratory disease bronchiolitis.
More than 100 infants have been admitted through the Accident & Emergency Department at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, about 10 per cent of which have needed ventilation on the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Although cases began in October, they have escalated more recently due to the freezing temperatures, and about a quarter of the current beds on children’s ICU are taken with bronchiolitis babies. Paediatricians at the hospital expect this figure to rise to full capacity over the next few months.
Action Research, a leading medical charity which is currently funding studies into fighting bronchiolitis, says that every Winter there is an influx of cases of the potentially fatal illness. This in turn causes significant burden on hospital paediatric resources and beds.
Simon Moore, Chief Executive of Action Research, says: ‘Each year in the UK alone, bronchiolitis results in the hospitalisation of about 20,000 infants under one year old, some of which require ventilation or intensive care. Understanding how this dreadful disease can develop is crucial.’
Professor Smyth, who is based at Alder Hey and is internationally renowned in her field, is leading a three-year study, to which Action Research has committed more than £140,000.
She adds: ‘There is much that we don’t know about bronchiolitis and the underlying RSV infection, not least why it causes life-threatening chest infections in some infants but trivial symptoms in others. There is a need to develop a vaccine to protect babies against infection and specific treatments for the condition. Research, therefore, is vital.’
To illustrate the point, Alder Hey, Europe’s leading children’s hospital, typically admits 300-400 of babies suffering from bronchiolitis through it’s A&E Department each year. This includes referrals of severely affected children from hospitals across the North West region. Despite it being the most common cause of admissions few parents have heard of bronchiolitis. Action Research commissioned a MORI poll - to coincide with an awareness launch this Autumn – which found that more than half of parents (54 per cent) have never heard of bronchiolitis.
The Charity has produced an information factsheet, free to members of the public. For copies please send a self addressed envelope to Bronchiolitis factsheet, Action Research, Vincent House, North Parade, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 2DP. Alternatively, visit www.action.org.uk/camp/bronch.html
For further information and interviews please contact Nicole Duckworth or Andrew Proctor in the Action Research press office on 01403 327403/4023 Fax: 01403 210541, or email firstname.lastname@example.org ISDN facilities are available
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