The H1N1 influenza virus, commonly referred to as the Swine Flu, is taking lives across the country once again. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this mutated form of the flu has killed almost 30 people in the United States over the last month.
Swine Flu, you will remember, killed an estimated 8,000-18,000 Americans during the flu season of 2009. Antibodies for the vaccine were incorporated into the flu shot the following year, and both cases and fatalities from H1N1 has sharply declined since.
It is no surprise then that the majority of those killed by the virus now have not received a flu shot. The latest H1N1 victim is 11-year-old Savannah Hyden of Tennessee. Hayden died last Wednesday at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee.
Hyden developed a bacterial infection after contracting the flu. This problem is not rare -- flu patients commonly develop serious bacterial infections while their immune systems are busy fighting off the influenza virus. The infection caused her to go into cardiac arrest.
“She was down for too long, there was no oxygen to her brain, and her organs just started shutting down,” Savannah’s mother Natasha Fiser said.
Hyden’s parents say they declined to give their daughter a flu shot because they were worried about possible side effects from the vaccine.
“You only think [vaccines] for the weak and the elderly — those that don’t have the immunity to fight it off,” Fiser said. “You would never imagine that a healthy child really would need the flu shot at all.”
Fiser’s reasoning in that last statement is tragically flawed. The Centers for Disease Control has always urged all people over six months old to get a flu shot. Those worried about the rarely seen side effects from the shot can ask for the preservative free form of the vaccine.
Savannah’s parents -- once vaccine skeptics themselves -- now urge parents everywhere not to ignore the CDC’s warnings. In addition to not vaccinating Savannah, they waited four days after the girl displayed flu symptoms before taking her to the doctor.
“Please don't ignore it,” Fiser said. “If you haven't been vaccinated do your research and decide if you want to vaccinate your child. If you're sick go to the doctor right away please."