Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Doubt cast on H1N1 in toddler's death

He had virus, but officials can't say it killed him

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A 19-month-old Gimli boy who died suddenly last month was carrying the H1N1 influenza virus, but that doesn't mean it's what killed him, medical authorities say.

Michelle Prymych, the child's mother, said Friday the province should do more to alert parents about the importance of vaccinating young children for the flu.

Her son, Kylan Lux, died Dec. 12. The office of the chief medical examiner informed Prymych earlier this week a biopsy of the boy's lung tested positive for H1N1. But the chief medical examiner has not yet determined a cause of death.

Prymych said in an interview Friday her son showed no signs of illness the day before he died.

"He was healthy the night before, running around, laughing," she said.

'I knew adults had the option to get the flu shot, but I had no idea that from age six months and over, kids have a separate flu shot other than their vaccine. And none of my friends knew about it'

-- Michelle Prymych, with son Kylan Lux, who died suddenly on Dec. 12. He was carrying the H1N1 virus at the time

"We had supper. We did our nightly routine. We played, we watched his cartoons. He had his bath and then he went to bed. He wasn't feverish. He wasn't coughing. He was normal. He was himself."

But when she went to his room the next morning, he was unresponsive. "He was face down and when I turned him over, he was blue."

She dialed 911 and began to perform CPR. Paramedics arrived quickly and took Kylan to the Gimli hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Prymych said she was unaware young children could receive the flu shot and it's separate from their other vaccinations.

She said health officials should do more to promote this, especially with regard to H1N1, which tends to strike younger people than other influenza strains do.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, of the 1,012 confirmed cases of H1N1 in Ontario and the four western provinces between Aug. 26, 2012 and April 20, 2013, 207 (20.5 per cent) were diagnosed in children under age five.

"I knew adults had the option to get the flu shot, but I had no idea that from age six months and over, kids have a separate flu shot other than their vaccine. And none of my friends knew about it," Prymych said.

Dr. Michael Routledge, Manitoba's chief public health officer, said the province, in its advertising and advice to doctors, does target children ages six months to five years as one of the at-risk groups for the flu.

Though he could not comment on an individual case, Routledge said it would be highly unusual for someone to die of influenza without suffering the usual symptoms (fever, sore throat, cough) for days before severe complications developed.

"I'm not going to say it's impossible, but it's not the course of how we see severe cases present," he said.

Michael O'Rourke, director of the chief medical examiner's office, confirmed a biopsy showed the presence of H1N1 in the boy's lungs. But he said that doesn't mean it caused his death.

The office is awaiting the results of further tests. "We'll have a cause of death soon," O'Rourke said.

Meanwhile, Routledge said parents should not be overly concerned about their children's health this flu season, which has been a mild one so far in Manitoba.

"Only a tiny number will become severely ill," he said.

However, if parents feel their child is suffering from more than a typical illness, they should take the child to a doctor, he said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 11, 2014 A4

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