Healthy Children at HIGHER Risk of Fatal Flu?


| 3 Comments

flu1rere.jpgI could not resist clicking on one of the featured stories on my home website earlier (dell.msn.com) today after reading the title: "Teen's death shows how flu can kill in a flash". With all the talking we've been doing lately about the flu shot and vaccines in general, I wanted to see if this article had anything to contribute relating to our classroom debate on whether or not the flu vaccination is worth getting. I think Andrew will be happy to know that the article stresses the importance of getting the flu shot as it tells the story of Austin Booth (pictured below) - a perfectly healthy seventeen year old boy who was playing in a basketball game just seven days before influenza killed him.

 

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The article's main purpose, however, is not to debate the importance of getting a flu shot, but instead to report on a study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that suggests perfectly healthy kids (such as Austin Booth) infected by the flu die at a faster rate (3-4 days on average) than those infected who have high risk conditions in combination with the flu, such as asthma or cerebral palsy, who die an average of 7 days after infection. Interstingly enough, the study also found that almost half (43%) of all children who fell fatal to the flu were previously in perfect health.

But why?

Although no set explanation is available, the article presents two theories.

One theory is that the parents of children with longstanding health problems have an automatic response to seek medical care at the very slightest sign of the flu, as the world of medical aid is very familiar to them. Thus, these unhealthy children are more likely to be treated shortly after the disease has infected them.

Does this theory answer the question presented though? Does being treated at a faster rate relate to prolonged life by only a few days?

Another theory suggests that in healthy children, the formerly unfocused immune system goes into "overdrive" when presented with the flu virus.

I am not totally sure what this means as the article doesn't elaborate and I couldn't find further information on the theory, but I'd assume it means the previously unfocused immune system of a healthy child is overworked when presented with horrors of the influenza virus, having a reverse effect on its healing power. This reverse effect prevents any calming of flu symptoms, causing the healthier children to die at a faster rate. Is this to say that the previously unhealthy children, whose immune systems are already at work with other illnesses, die at a slower rate because their immune system takes a slightly less forceful approach to the flu virus? Is that more subtle approach what keeps these children alive for several more days?

The second theory is very much up in the air for me. I'd love to know what you guys theorize about the healthy kids' immune systems "going into overdrive".

To end this blog, I'm going to stray a bit from the topic to please Andrew. This article also strongly emphasizes the importance of getting your flu shot! And soon!

Both the article and the study have an obvious underlying message that the flu is a disease that can kill quickly. Dr. Karen Wong of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who led the mentioned study, is quoted in the article:

"Because the study did find a lot of otherwise healthy kids who did have influenza-associated deaths and because we know deaths can happen fast, prevention is best, and the best prevention is the vaccine."

An even more powerful quote on the subject comes from Regina Booth, mother of the aforementioned seventeen-year-old Austin Booth. After talking about how she watched her son go from perfectly healthy to watching his organs shut down from the flu in just one week's time, she expresses her everlasting regret of not taking Austin to get the shot. Booth states:

"If I would have taken him to the doctor sooner they would have said he has the flu and sent him home. Nothing would have changed. The only thing I look back at now -- I wish we would have gotten the flu shot that year."

 

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Still not convinced getting the flu shot is worth it? What are your thoughts?

And what are your thoughts on the study? Why do you think healthier children die at a faster rate than those with longstanding health problems? Do you agree with the theories? What do you think of the second theory and the immune system "going into overdrive?"

3 Comments

I think that this is a very interesting topic. The first thing you may have to look at is chance. There is that CHANCE that your body may react more in a bad way to the flu than someone else who may be in worse health than you. In addition someone who is in worse health may have previously been affected by the flu or been exposed to it. Those are just two very broad and simple answers though for something that may be more of a complex problem. In addition you touched apron a point that i think is very important. Often enough a disease will drastically affect somebody more if they wait a longer amount of time before getting medical attention for it. It is very common that people do not think they are very sick when in fact they actually are. I think it would be interesting if you did a blog that compared the flu to other diseases that are common and see if there are any similarities in the way they affect people depending upon their previous health status'

I think that the reason healthy children die faster from the flu is that when the child first gets sick, the family and the child will think that the first symptoms are just that of a bad cold, which most people do not think of as a big deal and will generally just trust that sleep and the passing of time will heal it. Also, I think that there are many people out there that truly believe that the flu is not dangerous enough to kill people, or at least an extremely small amount of people. This mindset prevents them from seeking help as soon as they realize that it is in fact the flu, and by the time it becomes a serious problem, it can be too late.

I can absolutely see that the healthy kids die faster. I dont speak for everyone, but I am someone that generally does not sick, and on the rare occasion I do, I'm the stubborn person that says I can just get better myself. Personally I have never had the flu, so I do not know what it feels like when you first get it. But I know when i usually got sick as a kid, my mom would always say you'll be fine just take some Tylenol and you'll get over it. After reading this article it sort of opens my eyes to the dangers of that. Now I am not saying i will go run out and get the flu shot but I will atleast think about it. Very interesting blog topic though.

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