India has the highest number of flu-related pneumonia deaths among children with more than 3, 70, 000 children under the age of five years dying due to pneumonia of which seven per cent die of flu-related pneumonia, a latest study has shown.

It estimated that 90 million cases of seasonal flu occur among children under the age of five globally each year. 20 million of these are flu-related pneumonia resulting in 1 million hospital admissions. Flu-related pneumonia is also responsible for 28,000 to 1, 15, 000 deaths around the globe in this age group, the study said.

The study, published in the medical journal ‘Lancet', was conducted by the University of Edinburgh with support from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study was done between 1995 and 2010.

The research was led by the University of Edinburgh and involved 47 researchers from 14 countries. They reviewed data from high income and developing countries and found 43 suitable studies with data for around eight million children.

During the study, the researchers found that in 2008, there had been about 1,11,500 deaths of children under the age of five due to influenza and ALRI related diseases. It has further been noted that 99 per cent of the deaths took place in the developing countries.

The estimates for India were based on influenza and pneumonia data from Ballabgarh in Haryana. Researchers estimated that although about 6,000 acute lower respiratory infection (ALRI) deaths occurred in hospitals here in 2008, as many as three times this number could be occurring at home.

“India contributes about a fourth of the global influenza-pneumonia deaths in children under the age of five,” Dr. Harish Nair of the Edinburgh's Centre for Population Health Sciences and the Public Health Foundation of India. “India is the world leader for pneumonia mortality in children under the age of five contributing to about a fourth of the global pneumonia deaths. Influenza is the second most common infection identified in children with pneumonia and contributes substantially to the burden of hospitalisation and mortality in young children.”

“We think that until the widespread implementation of an effective influenza vaccine is achievable, reliable provision of antibiotics and oxygen therapy will substantially reduce mortality associated with flu,” he added.

This is the first of its kind study conducted in the world since earlier it was considered that ALRI was confined to elders only and not much attention was paid to children with this condition accounting for the total absence of data.