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Hot Topic (3/3): Do You Get The Flu Shot? Do Your Kids?

Posted by on Mar. 3, 2009 at 12:47 AM
  • 36 Replies

A new law was just went into effect in the state of NJ.  All children under 5 have to get the flu shot if they want to go to pre-school.    I wasn't going to get the flu shot for my 4yr old but the school said that we didn't have a choice.  So, we got it. 

Do you kid get the flu shot?    Do you?     Do You Think It Works?

Here's an article about flu deaths among the young.

  • Story Highlights
  • Majority of flu deaths strike the elderly and immune-compromised people
  • Children without pre-existing health problems can have fatal infection with flu
  • Theory: Children had unusual immune response to flu because of genetics
  • Many people don't get flu vaccine because of the perception that it isn't effective

    (CNN) -- For most, the flu is a winter inconvenience -- stuffy nose, fever, body aches and a few days of bed rest. But what seems fairly routine also can become life-threatening.

    Martin McGowan died at the age of 15 after falling ill with the flu in February 2005.

    Martin McGowan died at the age of 15 after falling ill with the flu in February 2005.

    The majority of flu deaths strike the elderly and people with pre-existing health problems. But flu also affects kids with no known medical problems and can send them into critical condition, or even death.

    This flu season started slowly, and doctors anticipate the peak will occur this month or April. Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, has been giving booster shots to patients who were vaccinated early in the season, September or October.

    "There's a decline in antibody levels, so we try to give a booster," Horovitz said. "I've been talking to immunologists [about] getting a booster-- there's no downside to it."

    Although doctors advise that nearly everyone should get a flu shot, skepticism about the severity of the illness and questions about shot's effectiveness persist.

    The Journal of the American Medical Association released three studies about the flu Monday. One reports that some flu viruses circulating during the 2007-2008 season were resistant to Tamiflu, an antiviral flu medicine. But those who had the strains resistant to Tamiflu did not get sicker than other patients. Read more on the rise in Tamiflu-resistant flu

    During the 2007-08 flu season, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 86 pedatric deaths from flu-related complications.

    The virus causes inflammation throughout the body and disturbs the functions of the body, including breathing.

    Deaths from the flu are "most likely respiratory-related," said Doug Hardy, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Texas-Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. "Flu can cause heart inflammation, lung inflammation." Co-infections also play a role.

    Four years ago, Martin McGowan, 15, came home after trying out for his high school baseball team and slumped in front of the television. His mother, Diane McGowan thought it was unusual for her athletic teenage son.

    "He just wasn't his active self," she said. "He usually reminded us of Tigger, bouncing all over the place."

    He went to bed that night complaining of flu-like symptoms.

    "He had a temperature," said McGowan of Nazareth, Pennsylvania. "It was 102. I knew the drill, give them ibuprofen or Motrin, give them something for the pain, and call the doctor the next day and see how it goes. That's the normal case."

    That night, Martin vomited a couple of times, complained of pains in his legs and his lips were turning white. They rushed to the emergency room.

    The doctors said he had the flu.

    "Even at that point, I didn't understand how sick my child was in the emergency room," McGowan said. "Influenza doesn't come across like that."

    The day before, Martin had gone running, which had irritated his leg muscles. The condition in his leg had developed into compartment syndrome, which limits blood circulation and causes leg pains. Doctors said he needed surgery as soon as possible.

    While he was wheeled into the operating room, Martin turned to say: "Mom, don't cry. It's going to be OK."

    Martin died in the operating room.

    "To hear that, it's heart-wrenching," his mother said. "The autopsy confirms it's influenza, it rips your heart out."

    "He was a very healthy, active 15-year-old. He hadn't been feeling well for one day. It hit him hard. It hit him like a lightning bolt. Within 15 hours, he was gone," she said.

    Cases like Martin's have baffled scientists, who usually see between 50 and 150 pediatric flu deaths a year in the United States.

    Typically half of the flu deaths occur in children who have degenerative heart or lung disease or immune risk factors, but the other half are seemingly healthy.

    "There isn't a good understanding of why that happens," said Dr. John Treanor, professor of medicine and of microbiology and immunology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. "There's speculation that these children, for genetic reasons, had unusual immune response to the flu, resulting in deaths."

    A person infected with the flu has weakened lungs and immune system, and could contract bacterial pneumonia or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.

    Of the nine pediatric deaths reported this season, bacterial co-infections were confirmed in six. Four of them also had staphylococcus infections.

    "That seems to be where a lot of people end up dying," Hardy said. "It's a combined killer with flu and bacterial pneumonia. More of the people who do die have co-infections. You don't have to be a weakened person without medical problems to die from the flu."

    Diane McGowan joined a group, Families Fighting Flu and started campaigning for the CDC to extend its flu vaccine guidelines, which had previously recommended annual shots for children between the 6 month and 5 years. Beginning with this flu season, the agency extended recommendations to 18-year-olds.

    "It's very sad to know that just a simple flu vaccination could've helped him (Martin)," McGowan said.

    The CDC estimates that more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and about 36,000 people die every year from flu complications.

    Despite warnings, many don't get the flu vaccine because of the perception that it isn't effective.

    "It's a good vaccine, but there's a problem with the flu vaccine," Hardy said. "You're predicting what's going to happen, before it happens. It's a betting game."

    The viral strain changes every year, so health officials try to predict which strains will be circulating next season.

    When McGowan meets a skeptic about flu vaccines, she recounts Martin's story.

    "I want to have parents understand it's not normal for children to die from the flu. I want them to get them protected, give them a fighting chance. The strain is always changing," she said. "Unfortunately, it's a hard lesson to learn. We don't want them to learn it the way we had to learn it."

    by on Mar. 3, 2009 at 12:47 AM
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    Replies (1-10):
    by Jes on Mar. 3, 2009 at 2:15 AM

    I recieved the flu shot last year but not this season (I'm pregnant).  My son is almost 2 and he has had his flu shot.  He hasn't had a cold at all this year!  YAY!  :)

       Wife of a Marine - Mommy to a Little Prince
    & Expecting a Princess in May!                

    by Member on Mar. 3, 2009 at 2:52 AM

    This was the first year since my daughter was born that we didn't get our yearly flu shot (time and forgetfulness... ) and we are all just getting over that cruddy bug that has been all around us... fevers, chest, long coughing spells... fatigue.  It sucks!

    Typically we do get the Flu shots and I firmly believe in them. 

    by New Member on Mar. 3, 2009 at 6:13 AM

    My husband and I and both sets of Grandparents have gotten the shot.  My daughter is still too young to get one and Im terrified she could get sick?  I try to limit her contact to large groups of people to improve her chances of staying healthy!  I think its important to get the shot especially if you have young children or sickly children.  I would hate for her to catch something from me I could have prevented! Thats just my oppinion anyway :)

    ~Christi~  Proud new momma and loving wife hugs

    by Member on Mar. 3, 2009 at 6:42 AM

    As a standard rule my older children and I and my SO don't normally get flu shots, because we don't fall within the guidlines of needing one yearly, unless you just want to get it. Now my younger child who is a chronic asthma sufferer is required to get it yearly because of his asthma. I had the flu maybe two years ago and rarely get it, my older son had the flu I think three years ago. I don't remember my daughter ever having the flu, and my SO never. So I really think it's a matter of opinion if you really need it or just feel you want it to try and prevent the symptoms from being so severe. Because the flu shot doesn't prevent you from getting the flu, it just lessen the symptoms where you won't be as sick.

    by Member on Mar. 3, 2009 at 7:23 AM

    My kids have been getting it, this year they got the mist instead of shot.  I only got one while I was pregnant b/c they recommended it.

    by on Mar. 3, 2009 at 8:32 AM

    My husband and I got them.  Our daughter got the first round (little ones get 2 shots, 4 weeks apart) but was sick w/pneumonia when time for round 2 came so she never got that.  We haven't gotten the flu but have been sick with colds monthly.

    by on Mar. 3, 2009 at 8:49 AM

    I don't.  I am a nurse and have never taken them.  I seem to have a natural resistance.  But for those who fall ill frequently it is worth a try to prevent it.  But many who get htem still fall ill.

    by Bronze Member on Mar. 3, 2009 at 9:08 AM

    no no no no no flu shots in this house i REFUSE!

    by New Member on Mar. 3, 2009 at 9:15 AM

    I always got them when I was little because I was a chronic asthma sufferer. My son has gotten them this year and last and it works out great for us. He got a couple of colds before he got the shot and has been very healthy all winter since getting it.

    by on Mar. 3, 2009 at 10:18 AM

    Well, we have not gotten flu shots.  We've never gotten them.  We don't have medical insurance, and we know that sometimes the doctors predict the wrong kinds of flus, so we just never have.  We should, but we just don't even go to the doctor until we're desperate.  Maybe we'll do that next year, I should be working, and we'll have insurance then.

    blowing kisses

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