Can swine flu cause seizures?


Parents of a child who has a seizure and a fever may be concerned about epilepsy. They probably won?t be happy to learn it might be swine flu.

Parents of a child with seizure and a fever may be concerned that their son or daughter has epilepsy. They probably won’t be happy to learn it might be swine flu.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, tells of four children in Texas diagnosed with swine flu who has “neurologic complications,” including confusion, delirium, and notably seizures.

Pediatricians know that regular influenza can cause febrile seizures, especially in young patients. It appears the A (H1N1) strain of influenza does the same thing. It’s too soon to have a true picture of the two types of viruses’ comparative effects of the brain. But the four cases all began a few days after respiratory symptoms began.

While it’s certainly not good news to be diagnosed with swine flu, the virus can be treated with a good deal of success with antiviral medications. (If a physician suspects swine flu, CDC reminds, start the flu antivirals and send a respiratory culture for confirmation.) This gives pediatricians a new suspicion for children running a fever and with altered mental status. Plus, since fever-induced seizure often never repeats, parental or patient worries of developing epilepsy are premature.

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Tina Tan, MD, FAAP, FIDSA, FPIDS, editor in chief, Contemporary Pediatrics, professor of pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, pediatric infectious diseases attending, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
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