The decision for parents to vaccinate children with this syndrome was complex because seizures could be triggered by both infection and vaccination. Despite the syndrome being associated with high rates of prolonged seizures during infections, the impact of influenza had not been previously studied.
The study involved children with SCN1A-positive Dravet syndrome who had a confirmed influenza infection at The Royal Children’s and Austin Hospital.
Complications of Influenza vaccine in Children with Genetic Epilepsy
SCN1A-positive Dravet syndrome is the most common severe form of genetic epilepsy that occurs in one in 15,000 children. Researchers found 21 children caught influenza 24 times, with brain complications reported in 88 percent of cases.
All presented to the hospital with 75 percent recovering quickly but death or long-term brain complications occurred in one in five infections. Between them, they received 60 influenza vaccinations with most tolerating the vaccine well.
However, this syndrome is also associated with a high risk of seizures during infections, it highlights the critical need to protect patients from the complications of vaccine-preventable infections like the flu.
The research is reassuring for parents that it’s beneficial for children with this condition to have the flu shot to try and avoid an onset of seizures caused by an infection, which are damaging and terrifying to watch.
Identifying safe strategies and strongly encouraging influenza vaccination in children and adults with SCN1A-Dravet syndrome is critical.
Before influenza vaccination, vaccine providers should review the child’s regular anti-seizure medications and ensure a seizure management plan is in place.
The use of additional anti-seizure medications in the post-vaccination period, such as benzodiazepines, is now recommended to reduce the risk of seizures following a vaccine and is becoming routine practice.
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