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Young People Felled by Flu

Those of us trying to make sense of the recent flu-related deaths of two Maryland teens have to face the reality that life can be terribly unfair.

While we know that the very young and the very old, those with chronic illnesses or underlying health conditions and those with compromised immune systems are most vulnerable to the flu, even otherwise healthy people can be susceptible.

In an increasing number of cases, influenza, a viral infection of the respiratory tract, ushers in a secondary bacterial infection. Masked by the flu's symptoms -- fever, headache, stuffy or runny nose, sore throat and a dry cough -- the bacterial infection can quickly overcome the body's defenses and become deadly.

As I reported yesterday, it's not clear whether Ian Willis, 13, or Zachary Weiland, 15, had been vaccinated against influenza this season. Sadly, even if they had been, the flu shot -- which targets several strains of influenza that health experts have months earlier identified as those most likely to be circulating in the coming flu season -- isn't foolproof. This year's formulation is a good match for the season's predominant strain but apparently not so well matched to the "B" strain that's going around. Still, vaccination typically at least lessens the severity of illness. For now, the flu shot (or intranasal FluMist -- developed by Gaithersburg's MedImmune) is our best protection.

Experts emphasize that good personal hygiene habits can go a long way toward reducing risk of getting the flu. Washing your hands many times throughout the day -- plain old soap and water will do the trick -- can help keep flu virus out of your system.

There is new hope on the vaccine horizon, though. Two teams of scientists have recently discovered flu antibodies; the discoveries could eventually lead to a universal flu vaccine that would be effective against all strains.

In the meantime, as Zachary Weiland's father Kirk Weiland was quoted by WTOP radio, "None of us know how long we have on the earth." A good reminder to go give your kids a hug -- and make sure their vaccinations are up to date.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  March 2, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health , General Health , Influenza , Vaccinations  
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Comments

one year a mistake will be made, the wrong vaccine will be given and millions will die of influenza...
just one way to lower social security payments...

Posted by: DwightHCollins | March 2, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

The article wasn't clear as to whether the two unfortunate young men had received flu shots.

Posted by: GWGOLDB | March 2, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

About 2/3 of the currently circulating B is not directly covered inthis years vaccine, however with yearly vaccination the immune system can in fact generate responses to drifted strains.
The point of this article is that EVERYONE needs to be vaccinated not just 'high risk' (which refers to risk of severe illness or death not catching influenza)to protect their family and friends.
Se Families Fighting Flu web site for more information and others who have experienced this tragic event.

Posted by: docandroo | March 2, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

In addition to being vaccinated and practicing anti-microbial hygiene, another way to protect against the flu is to diagnose and treat Vitamin D deficiency, which research is increasingly showing to be rampant, especially in Winter months, and quite likely the major cause of the seasonal variation in flu incidence.

For more information, go to

http://vitamindcouncil.org/

You can find lots of background info there, as well as advice and instructions for checking your Vitamin D level, with a simple blood test. They also give recommendations for Vitamin D supplementation if you don't know your Vitamin D serum level. The research they link to shows that previous recommendations for Vitamin D intake during Winter months has been extremely inadequate. The recommendations have been revised upwards recently, but are still not as high as much of the research indicates they should be.

I was pointed to this information by a friend who is a medical professional doing research in preventive medicine. I and my family have been cold and flu-free for the entire Winter season while supplementing with Vitamin D.

Posted by: mark51 | March 2, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

There is no way to prove or dispel any propaganda concerning a current influenza vaccine’s effectiveness until the influenza season is completely over. Statements like coverage for drift coverage or partial coverage are complete speculation at best. The fact that someone didn’t contract influenza because they received the vaccine cannot be scientifically proven. This article provides valid alternate reasons why any individual may not contract influenza without being vaccinated. Even if both these teen agers received their vaccine, their “partial coverage” did not help them one bit.

Last year only 30% of the population received the vaccine that was only 40% effective. This year is reported to be a “better match” and yet the end results don’t appear any different then last year. It is physiologically impossible to generate “herd immunity” given current manufacturing processes for influenza vaccines. It is a fool’s folly to blindly trust the vaccine only.

Posted by: cutterjohn | March 2, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

It is SAD [standard American diet] causing the flu. Most MD's, and definitely profit - motivated pharmaceutical companies are either not aware of the truth or more interested in showing profit. To find out ways to avoid flu without drugs or vaccines, go to: http://www.healingnews.com/Healing_Flu_article101.html

There are so many alternatives to the vaccines and chemicals that our bodies were never designed to handle. For more on this and other pertinent information, go to: http://www.HealingNews.com

Posted by: rootsofdemocracy | March 2, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Alternative Diets, Vitamin D deficiency: these health articles all bring out the bat-poop crazies out there. When all you people go to medical school and actually get a diploma, then maybe I'll take advice from you.

*********
The article wasn't clear as to whether the two unfortunate young men had received flu shots.

Posted by: GWGOLDB | March 2, 2009 10:44 AM

The vast majority of commenters on these boards have no reading comprehension skills whatsoever. The columnist specifically said it wasn't known whether the two kids got flu shots.

I've never had a flu shot and don't ever intend to, and can't remember ever getting the flu in my entire adult life. If you're getting sick every winter, maybe you need to learn how to wash your hands and practice basic hygiene.

Posted by: 7900rmc | March 2, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

After seeing the news last week that yet another teen has passed away from complications resulting from the flu virus, it is more important than ever to distribute information about the need for flu vaccination. This year thirty million more school-age children and teens need a flu shot than last year because the CDC now recommends all children from 6 months through 18 years old get one – for the first time ever, these guidelines include teenagers.

A new national survey shows that only 16 percent of parents are aware of the new CDC guidelines, and only 21 percent of teens within this recommendation actually received a flu shot this winter. However, since flu activity can occur as late as May, it’s not too late for parents to get their teens vaccinated.

The Clorox Company has teamed up with American Idol Finalist Brooke White and infectious disease specialist Dr. Harley Rotbart to launch IDontWanttoMiss.com, a Web site for teens, parents and teachers, featuring flu prevention education and tips. The site includes expert advice from Dr. Rotbart, as well as information on the I Don’t Want to Miss… PSA contest with components like interactive polls, downloadable resources, frequently asked questions and cold & flu facts.

Posted by: BCWilliams209 | March 2, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I've never had a flu shot and don't ever intend to, and can't remember ever getting the flu in my entire adult life. If you're getting sick every winter, maybe you need to learn how to wash your hands and practice basic hygiene.

Posted by: 7900rmc | March 2, 2009 3:06 PM

********************

*rolls eyes*. Well, whoopee for you. Perhaps you should spend more time thanking your lucky stars and less time condescendingly berating the less fortunate. You know, "there but for the grace of God" and all that.

Posted by: spunkydawg | March 2, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

After seeing the news last week that yet another teen has passed away from complications resulting from the flu virus, it is more important than ever to distribute information about the need for flu vaccination.
*******************************

Why?
The article implies that the deaths are due to influenza, but does not categorically state that the deaths were not Influenza Like Illness as categorized by the CDC. Influenza has been around for more centuries than drunk driving has been. Exponentially more teen agers die from drunk driving then from influenza, maybe you need to get your priorities straight because influenza isn’t the high risk behavior that is a concern to society.

Posted by: cutterjohn | March 2, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

7900rmc said: "Alternative Diets, Vitamin D deficiency: these health articles all bring out the bat-poop crazies out there. When all you people go to medical school and actually get a diploma, then maybe I'll take advice from you."

If you go to the site I linked to on Vitamin Deficiency, instead of showing yourself to be the one who is unscientific, commenting on something you have not even glanced at, you will see that it is a council of people with MD degrees, who publish peer-reviewed articles in respected professional journals, who do double-blind randomized studies, etc. It's not what you think it is. There is legitimate science behind the claim. Check it out.

As I alluded in my previous post, rampant Vitamin D deficiency is being recognized by the professional medical community. The American Pediatric Association recently doubled the recommended Vitamin D intake for children, citing a growing problem of Vitamin D deficiency and a whole host of diseases related to it. There's a link on the site I pointed you to that gives the details.

7900rmc also said: "I've never had a flu shot and don't ever intend to, and can't remember ever getting the flu in my entire adult life."

So you make assertions concerning a phenomenon affecting a population of billions, based on a sample size of "one", and you call the doctors doing research on Vitamin D deficiency bat-poop crazies?

And then there's the fact that you impugn the comprehension skills of "the vast majority of readers" of this column because a few people posted messages in which they failed to make note of a detail in the article.

I would think that someone advocating a scientific approach would exhibit more familiarity with the elementary aspects of the scientific method.

Posted by: mark51 | March 2, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

no need to overdose these kids with med., for flu........you can use a simple homeopathy home remedy from your health food store to relive the flu in hours.... www.1wallmart.com/homeopathy/56/

Posted by: reoassets | March 3, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

@reoassets :

I'm not going to click your link because it looks suspicious. But I will ask: if what you're pointing us to is legitimate and beneficial, why use a url designed to deceive people into thinking they're going to a site for the well-known and trusted retailer Walmart?

Walmart's web site is http://www.walmart.com. The numeral "1" and the extra letter "l" in the url reoassets provided are evidence of deception.

Posted by: mark51 | March 3, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Luckily there are good medicine against the flu.

Fred Smilek is the acting president of the Society to Save Endangered Species. It was founded two years ago by Fred Smilek along with his two best friends Charles and Jonathan.

http://www.fredjsmilek.com

Posted by: fredsmilek | March 4, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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