One of the few advantages of getting pandemic flu is that you are won’t get it again. Or will you? Many members of the PFI forum have claimed to have been infected more than once with swine flu. In most cases, they were not tested for the new H1N1 with RT-PCR so we cannot be certain that both infections were really pandemic flu.
But a doctor in West Virginia was tested. She had it twice.
From The Charleston Daily Mail, November 24, 2009
Dr. Debra Parsons, a pediatrician at Kid Care West in Cross Lanes, was met with reactions of doubt from local health officials last month when she said two flu tests had come back positive for H1N1, or swine flu.
Parsons first came down with the virus, complete with all the telltale symptoms, in August.
Her son became ill at the same time with the same symptoms. Figuring they had the same bug, Parsons tested herself to see what it was.
The test came back positive for Influenza A, so the lab at Charleston Area Medical Center sent it to be sub-typed. Parsons was positive for H1N1.
Parsons and her son recovered, but in October they started having the same symptoms, but they became much worse.
They were both tested this time, and the results were the same — they were positive for Influenza A and then H1N1.
“It was swine flu both times,” Parsons said.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, and John Law, spokesman for the West Virginia Division of Health and Human Resources, were skeptical of Parsons’ claim.
Law said the possibility of getting the flu twice was “very, very, very rare.” Gupta said he was “aware of no data or scientific body of research or case reports” that indicated someone could contract H1N1 more than once.
So the specimen from the Parsons’ second flu test was sent to the CDC in Atlanta, where it underwent a preliminary strain reaction test. Parsons says that test is the “gold standard” in differentiating between seasonal and swine flu.
That sample came back a couple weeks ago, and it was positive for H1N1. The CDC then requested a specimen from Parsons’ August flu test.
Last Friday, the results of that test came back positive for H1N1.
There are very few explanations for this result. One possibility is that for some reason Dr. Parsons did not mount an immune response to the virus the first time she was infected. However, it is not clear why this would be the case. She has no immune deficiency and clearly showed signs of being ill. Many of the symptoms of flu are associated with the immune response, not direct viral damage. Hence, the fact that she had felt sick the first time indicates that her immune system was responding appropriately to the virus. The fact that she was even more ill the second time suggests that there are multiple strains of the new H1N1 with differing abilities to cause serious illness.
People who were sick earlier in the year should not assume that they are safe from a bad outcome from pandemic flu now. They aren’t.