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Universal influenza vaccination in children would prevent nearly half of secondary household cases of flu, according to a new study confirming children's key role in the spread of the disease.
The research has prompted fierce debate on the merits of immunising all children against flu, with experts claiming a universal programme
was rising up the agenda.
Researchers analysed data from the French Sentinel network and estimated that children with flu were responsible for 40-48 per cent of secondary infection among their household contacts.
The study, published in September's British Journal of General Practice, also found that prophylaxis with neura-minidase inhibitors would prevent 21-41 per cent of secondary cases caused by exposure to a sick child.
Professor John Oxford, professor of virology at Queen Mary, University of London, said the figures were high but unsurprising because children had higher concentrations of virus in their upper airways and were more likely to spread the disease through coughing and sneezing.
He added: 'Breaking the cycle of transmission of flu
by vaccinating children is getting more and more on the agenda.
'But we need more people thinking about it and contributing to the debate.'