A child’s death

This evening has news of a 10 year old Fairbanks Alaska boy suspected of succumbing to an infection of H1N1 2009 [swine flu].

Excerpt from Anchorage Daily News:

Swine flu suspected in Alaska child’s death



(09/05/09 18:14:43) A 10-year-old Fairbanks child died in Anchorage Friday night from a suspected case of H1N1, or swine flu, according to state health officials.

The school nurse sent the child home from Hunter Elementary School in Fairbanks around noon on Thursday with symptoms of the flu, and the child was admitted to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital that night. The child was not doing well, and was transported to Providence Alaska Medical Center. Doctors pronounced the child dead late Friday evening, state health officials said in a written statement.

State officials said the death was the first probable swine-flu related death of a child in the state.

This tragic death is not yet confirmed to be because of H1N1 although the articles report it as the most likely cause.  My heartfelt condolences to the family and all those who knew and cherished this child.

There is nothing more tragic than the loss of a child.  The parents of this young boy did not have the choice of having him vaccinated against the pandemic strain of influenza, that vaccine is not yet available.  I have no idea if his parents would have allowed him to receive the vaccine or not.  It is reported that only about 50% of us are willing to get the pandemic influenza vaccine [when it becomes available to us], and roughly the same percentage report they will allow their children to receive it.

As the weeks have ticked away I have read more and more anti-vaccine rhetoric, now at a near fever pitch.  I find it deeply frustrating, to say nothing of angering, when I read the tripe and blatant misinformation, tripe and misinformation that is doing a great job of convincing about 50% of us that the vaccine is the health threat our children face and not H1N1 2009 [swine flu].

This child was in class on Thursday, probably feeling only a bit “peaked” when he left his home that morning, and by the end of the evening the next day he was dead.  Now, fortunately, most children who become infected with our pandemic influenza virus suffer only a mild illness, some a little more than mild. A few become ill enough to require hospitalization and a very — thankfully very, very few — suffer what will become a fatal infection.  But we have no handy crystal ball that we can conveniently peer into to know with certainty which children will suffer what severity of illness.

Parents Weigh H1N1 Vaccines As Government Pushes to Launch 45 Million Doses, Many Families Wonder if the Vaccine Is Completely Safe [link]

(CBS)  A classroom of fifth graders in Washington, D.C. have been studying up on the H1N1 virus, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller.

“They said they were going to start vaccine-ing people, like, maybe in October,” said one student.

And even though the last thing the want is another shot, they’re pretty grown up about the idea of a vaccine.

Children are especially vulnerable to the H1N1 virus. The CDC recommends that school-aged kids be among the first to get vaccinated.

And parents seem to be getting the message. In a new CBS News poll, 45 percent say it’s very likely they’ll sign their kids up for the shot. Another 22 percent say it’s somewhat likely.

“We’ve talked to our pediatrician and he thinks it’s a good idea,” said John Cavanaugh, who has twins.

But D.C. pediatrician Joanna Sexter has doubts about its safety.

We don’t yet know a whole lot about the swine flu vaccine,” Sexter said.

No, doctor Sexter, we know a great deal about this vaccine even if you do not.  The only thing that is different between this vaccine and the seasonal vaccine you inject into your patients every year is the hemagglutinin and neuraminidase genes used [the H1 and N1 of A/H1N1 2009; the two outer proteins]. Everything else is the same.

It’s bad enough we have so many parents ill informed, it’s inexcusable when we have doctors – pediatricians – who are equally as ill informed.  When I read this CBS piece I just wanted to bang my head against the wall.  It would have been less painful to endure.

Concern over the haste of this inoculation program stems from one back in 1976. Twelve Americans died and hundreds more were paralyzed after getting the swine flu vaccine.

“I’m probably not going to be the first doctor on the block to give the vaccine,” Sexter said.

I wonder if it would do any good if Dr. Sexter telephoned the treating physicians of the Fairbanks child.  I wonder what they would tell her.  I wonder if they would ask her where she received her medical degree.

I wonder how many pediatricians the reporter had to contact before they found this glowing example of ignorant.  Oops… my anger is showing.  I’ll quit now before I tell y’all how I really feel.  These two news items are just too difficult to deal with dispassionately when read together.

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2 Responses to A child’s death

  1. Brenda Gundry says:

    Glad to see someone else is passionate AND angry about what America’s doctors don’t know.

    From doctors being on the wrong side of the vaccine issue, to the appalling lack of continuing education, to a fundamental lack of basic curiosity, to fatigue or disinterest, lack of time, and on, and on . . . . . The list goes on and we are left to wonder how many people go undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, left in unnecessary pain or left to simply die because they received inferior medical care.

    Most of us have stories in our own families that illustrate “what doctors don’t know” and Mystery Diagnosis made a tv series out of “what doctors don’t know”.

    There is no good way to know how many Dr. Sextors are out there but those among us who blindly submit to all authority figures are at added risk. Until people understand that they are the head of their own medical team in today’s brave new world and that they must hold the other members of the team accountable (doctors, nurses, hospitals, labs, etc.) we will continue to hear sad stories about unnecessary death, pain and illness. And Mystery Diagnosis will continue to have more true stories than it can cover.

    I know I will die one day from something. I’m just trying to make sure I don’t die of stupidity.

    Thanks for your always insightful commentary.

    Brenda Gundry

  2. Michael Murphy says:

    The whole swine flu story leaves a question begging to be answered: If IV peramivir is effective in the ICU and has been shown to be safe in Phase I and II trials in the US, and Phase I, II and III trials in Japan, why has the FDA dragged its heels issuing an Emergency Use Authorization, and why have children suffocated to death in the ICU as a result? What Hurricane Katrina was to FEMA, this delayed EUA is to the FDA. It’s a huge story; please help break it.