Multiple infections with pandemic H1N1, implications for vaccine

At PFI_Forum, there have been numerous reports from members that report having been ill with swine flu, twice. However, without testing, it is not possible to be sure that both infections were from the new H1N1 virus. Today, a physician in West Virginia details her own two laboratory-confirmed infections with pandemic flu.

From the Charleston Daily Mail, November 5, 2009 (hat-tip Joseph_Roehl_kiwiamerican and Clawdia):

A Cross Lanes pediatrician says she came down with swine flu twice in two months, and she’s among the medical professionals who are puzzled by the occurrence.

Dr. Debra Parsons, a pediatrician at Kid Care West in Cross Lanes, said both she and her son came down with identical flu-like symptoms in August.

Figuring they had the same disease, Parsons swabbed herself and sent the specimen off to a lab. She tested positive for Influenza A, which includes several strains of the flu.

Health officials say that in this region more than 99 percent of people who have been testing positive for Influenza A are later confirmed to have swine flu.

Parsons said that was the case with her family; a more specific follow-up “sub-typing” test at the state lab confirmed she had H1N1.

Parsons and her son recovered from the symptoms but in October they struck again and were much worse, she said. Both had body aches, fever, chills, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

This time Parsons swabbed both herself and her son, and both tests came back positive for Influenza A. She said she pushed for further testing to determine the strain, and the lab ran an immunofluorescence test on the specimens. They again tested positive for H1N1, she said.

Parsons’ second swab was sent to the state lab Wednesday for even further testing and results should be returned in a couple of days or sent to the Centers for Disease Control for follow-up tests, she said.

When the initial test came back positive again, Parsons said she also contacted the CDC to see if it’s possible for someone to contact the swine flu twice.

She said officials at the CDC told her Saturday that it is possible.

But in public statements issued in late October the CDC said people who have had H1N1 don’t need to get the vaccine because they can’t contract the virus again.

So which is it? Does exposure to the virus protect against future infections or not? One would think that such exposure would be at least as good as a vaccine. This is just one report. But if there were large numbers of people who are becoming infected twice with the new H1N1, it would suggest that there is more than one strain of the virus circulating. And if that is the case, then vaccine may not protect against the new version of the virus. Surely the CDC would tell us if this was happening. That is what Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department believes.

Gupta said nothing right now would lead him to believe the virus has mutated.

“There is absolutely no evidence to assert that,” he said. “In fact, (Center for Disease Control director) Dr. Tom Frieden has issued a press release…and he states that the virus is genetically stable. I believe him.”

Given Dr. Frieden’s history of burying bad news, Dr. Gupta might want to reconsider his blind faith in Dr. Frieden’s pronouncements.

malachi at PFI_Forum posted a snippet of an email she received from someone who claims to have information about changes in the pandemic virus:

I talked with **** this morning and he had a conference call with the CDC yesterday…….
They think that the virus is starting to mutate and therefore making the vaccine useless…..

Although I regard this as a rumor, it would be worth asking Dr. Frieden if such a conference call did occur and whether there is any evidence whatsoever suggesting either that exposure to the virus itself or the vaccine is proving ineffective against some strains of the new H1N1.

Just a suggestion.


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