ATLANTA — Swine flu has caused at least 19 more children's deaths — the largest one-week increase since the pandemic started in April, health officials said Friday.
At least 114 children have died from swine flu complications since the spring, up from 95 reported a week earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, the government has decided to release the last of its stockpile of liquid Tamiflu for children because of reported shortages of the swine flu treatment. Enough to treat about 234,000 children is being released.
"We didn't see a reason to keep it in reserve when we have so much illness in children now," CDC director Thomas Frieden said at a news conference.
The government sent some of the stockpile to states in the spring and more earlier this month. To replenish the supply, the government has ordered more from Tamiflu's manufacturer, Switzerland-based Roche Holdings, he added. But that medicine is not expected to come in until early next year.
Pharmacies are able to convert adult Tamiflu capsules — which are in good supply — to pediatric doses, he added.
The 19 new deaths in children under 18 represent lab-confirmed cases reported in the week ending Oct. 23. The CDC also received three other reports of children dying from flu. Those are also believed to be swine flu fatalities but those cases didn't undergo full lab-testing to confirm that.
The increase probably reflects the rise in illnesses that have been seen in many parts of the country this month, and the numbers are expected to get worse, Frieden said.
In the past two months, health officials have seen more reports of flu hospitalizations in non-elderly people than they normally do in entire six-month flu seasons, he added.
Except for children, CDC officials do not keep an exact count of all U.S. swine flu deaths, but say the number has surpassed 1,000. They don't have a tally of all swine flu illnesses, either, but say many millions have been at least mildly sickened by the virus since it was first identified in April.
Each year 50 to 100 American children die from complications of seasonal flu, which tends to hit the elderly the hardest. Seasonal flu kills an estimated 36,000 Americans annually.