Dr. Kim Foster: Wicked Health


Why Are Our Healthy Teens Dying From The Flu?

Dylan Wilson: A Tragic, Preventable Death

Dylan Wilson, a 20-year-old young man who lived in London, Ontario, died of the flu on Jan 17, 2014. His devastated mother appeared at a press conference shortly afterward and, in an attempt to find meaning in such an unthinkable tragedy, made a plea for people to get their flu shot. Dian Wilson hopes her son’s death will save someone else’s life.

Dylan hadn’t received a flu shot this season. And then, he contracted the H1N1 strain of the flu—one of the strains included in this year’s shot, and yes, the same strain that caused panic in 2009. The fact that Dylan was young and otherwise healthy makes it difficult for us to comfort ourselves in the usual way. And here’s something that may further increase your discomfort: Dylan was not the first Canadian to die of the flu this winter. And he likely won’t be the last.

Health Canada recently confirmed that 33 people have died from the flu so far this season, and 118 people have been admitted to the ICU.

It’s a cross-country phenomenon. There are no safe zones. Here’s a sampling of stories across the country:

My point here is obvious, of course. And I stand beside Dylan Wilson’s mom in making the same plea she did: get your flu shot. Please.

It’s Not Too Late To Get Your Flu Shot

You’ve probably read headlines about a shortage of flu vaccine. And yes, many communities have temporarily run out or are running low. But public health authorities continue to manufacture and release more flu vaccine. You should be able to find a clinic or pharmacy with a ready supply. Look here.

I know many people have concerns about the flu shot. There are questions and worries about safety and effectiveness. If there are questions in your mind, read this post I wrote last year addressing the myths and facts about the flu shot.

I also know it’s not easy to bring a kid in for a needle. Does your child dread needles? Read this, to make the process easier.

Or, ask for FluMist. New this year, FluMist is a nasal spray flu vaccine (you read that right—no needles!) that may be an option in your area. Anecdotally, I’ve heard availability may be a problem for some people, and some parents have had difficulty finding it. Again, check with your local public health department.

Maybe, just maybe, if everyone rolls up their sleeves, we can prevent any more mothers losing children to the flu. It won’t replace the gaping hole left in Dian Wilson’s life, but it just might bring her some comfort.