Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Maybe I Should Get That Flu Shot

In late February, twelve-year-old Jasmine Levy of Minneapolis, MN complained to her mother that she wasn’t feeling well. That was Sunday night. By Monday morning, Jasmine was dead, the first child to succumb to influenza this season in the state of Minnesota. Jasmine’s younger sister, Danielle, also contracted the illness, the same evening as her sister. Rushed to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance, Danielle was admitted to intensive care and placed in a drug-induced coma for several days. She survived. Neither girl had a flu shot because their mother lacked health insurance. Jasmine, an asthma patient, was definitely a candidate for the vaccine. Sadly, she also developed a staph infection as a complication of the flu. Death came quickly as her lungs filled with fluid.

Late this week, a second child also perished from influenza. This time the victim was five years old (also from Minneapolis), had no underlying health condition, and had received a flu shot after she had become ill. Unlike Jasmine Levy, who contracted an A strain of influenza, this child was infected with influenza B.

What is the difference, you ask? Quoting from the Influenza: A to B page on the University of Florida College of Medicine website:
The influenza viruses are a group of RNA viruses designated as types A, B, and C. Type C may not be a true influenza virus and usually causes only mild or asymptomatic disease. Influenza B virus usually causes a minor illness, but it does have the potential to cause more severe disease in older persons. Influenza A virus, however, causes pandemics. The reason for the recurrent outbreaks is that the virus undergoes periodic antigenic shifts in its two outer membrane glycoproteins --- hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N) --- for example, from H1N1 to H2N2 in 1957 and from H2N2 to H3N2 in 1968, thus introducing a new virus into a population that has no protective serum antibody. No different subtypes of H and N have been identified for influenza B and C.
So, I can contract the flu and it will manifest symptomatically as a mild upper respiratory infection, bacterial pneumonia or, as in the case of the older child referenced above, rapidly fatal viral pneumonia. Given those choices, it makes me wonder why I didn’t get that flu shot. Maybe next year I will.

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