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Doctors Frequently Fail To Diagnose Flu in Children

A new study has found that doctors often fail to diagnose the flu in young children, thereby prolonging the illness and allowing its spread to others.

Researchers discovered that doctors missed flu infections in the vast majority – between 75 and 80 percent – of preschoolers who received treatment for symptoms at a doctor’s office or an emergency room.

“Many of the children did not have a test performed, and few of the children were sent home with a specific diagnosis of influenza,” said Dr. Katherine Poehling, pediatrician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who led the study.

According to the team of researchers, use of a rapid flu test could detect more cases of the flu so that the proper steps can be taken to prevent its spread. They added that medicines like Tamiflu could have helped ease symptoms in approximately one-third of the children.

The study, which was conducted over a four-year period on children under five, found that a correct diagnosis of the flu was made in only 28 percent of those who were hospitalized and 17 percent of those who visited the doctor or emergency room. Common misdiagnoses included asthma, pneumonia, and a general viral illness.

The research was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is being published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of misdiagnosis, you may wish to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney who can evaluate your case. Please contact us to speak with an experienced attorney in your area.

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