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.