Vaccination delay can be lethal

Families of victims say timely flu shot might have saved lives

1/17/2014
BY MARLENE HARRIS-TAYLOR
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Bugg
Bugg

Mia Ortega is second-guessing her actions and wondering whether things would have turned out differently if she had gotten a flu shot this year.

Marshall
Marshall

The 30-year-old Toledo woman lost her mother, Patricia Marshall, to the flu on New Year’s Eve.

Ms. Marshall, who was 61, is one of the seven people who have died from flu-related causes in northwest Ohio and southeastern Michigan this flu season.

Ms. Marshall was mainly homebound because of health ailments, including an enlarged heart and diabetes. Ms. Ortega said she was sick with flulike symptoms when she spent Christmas Eve with her mother, then her mother began getting sick a few days later.

By the Sunday after Christmas, Ms. Marshall was admitted into Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center.

“She was coughing and shaking and saying, ‘I’m sick, I’m very sick, I don’t know what’s wrong,’ ” Ms. Ortega said.

Early Tuesday, Ms. Marshall went into cardiac arrest and was moved to the intensive care unit. “That’s when [the doctor] told me she had H1N1. The flu was affecting her heart,” said Ms. Ortega. Ms. Marshall died later that morning, on Dec. 31.

“I’m wondering how it could have been if my mom had gotten a flu shot and if I had gotten one,” she said.

Ms. Ortega said she has received the vaccine many times but didn’t this year, although they were free where she works.

“I've seen a lot of people on Facebook talking about a lot of complications that come from the flu shot. There’s a lot of people thinking it couldn’t happen to them, just like I used to think,” she said.

Marty Bugg said his brother was one of those people who was skeptical about the shot.

The Toledo-Lucas Coun-ty Health Department said Wednesday that Randy Bugg, 60, died from influenza, bringing to five the number of people who died in Lucas Coun-ty.

He said his brother was fighting cancer and moved from Michigan recently to live with him in Curtice. Mr. Bugg said his brother began feeling ill Jan. 6, “the day they had that Level 3 snow emergency.” A week later, his brother was in St. Charles Hospital and the doctors said he had influenza.

He died on Tuesday. The funeral services are set for Saturday in Michigan.

“He debated about it [the flu shot] back and forth. He was one of those people who thought [that if] you get the flu shot you are going to get the flu,” Mr. Bugg said.

The flu shot does not cause people to get the flu, said Dr. David Grossman, Toledo Lucas County health commissioner. “I don’t know why the myth persists,” he said.

Any time you get anything done, from getting a vaccine to getting a tooth pulled, there is a risk factor, said Eric Zgodzinski, director of environmental services for the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department.

“You could get a reaction. You might get a headache, or a low-grade fever, body aches, some of that stuff, but that’s your natural body reaction and that’s good because it’s starting to kick up your immune system to fight that flu virus when it comes into your body,” he said.

People sometimes confuse the flu with a cold or with a stomach bug. “Upper respiratory is the flu. You’re coughing, you’re hacking, you feel like you just got run over by a Mack Truck,” Mr. Zgodzinski said.

“Some people may be infected with the flu because they were exposed to someone with the virus before they received the vaccine or before they had full immunity,” said Dr. Uma Savanoor, ProMedica physician.

Any flu infection carries a risk of serious complications, hospitalization, or death, but the H1N1 strain of the flu virus caused particular concern when it first appeared in 2009. It was considered a pandemic by health officials because of the number of children and young adults who were affected. Since then, H1N1 has been incorporated into the flu vaccine.

This season’s flu vaccine contains protection against influenza A (H1N1) virus, influenza A (H3N2) virus, and one or two influenza B viruses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Dr. Savanoor said everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get the flu vaccine.

The side effects are mild and short lasting, especially when compared with symptoms of the disease itself, which can be severe and even lead to death, she said.

Two Wal-Mart stores in the Toledo area are holding flu clinics today. The times are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m at the Holland store,1355 S. McCord Rd., and noon to 4 p.m. at the Sylvania Township store, 5821 W. Central Ave. The cost without insurance is $25.

The Lucas County Health Department, 635 N. Erie St., will hold a walk-in flu clinic on Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The cost without insurance is $30.

Contact Marlene Harris-Taylor at: mtaylor@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.