a peek inside the fishbowl

22 Oct, 2009

Kids, school, and H1N1 (a.k.a the Swine Flu)

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

The federal government has approved the swine-flu vaccine and our country’s largest-ever immunization campaign is ready to go. (Here’s a CBC piece about vaccinations rolling out on Monday for priority groups.)

I have to admit, I’m not sure if I’m going to get it. I am pretty sure I will, but have to be honest and confess that I’m hesitating. I have a mild distrust of Big Medical and this is something Mark and I really need to figure out, fast. In the meantime, I’ve been thinking a lot about how our public schools are handling H1N1.

If there’s a case of H1N1 in my daughters’ schools the parents are not notified.  But if there’s a case of head lice in my daughter’s class a note comes home …  alerting parents to check their kids and watch for signs of itching and scratching. Makes sense, right?

I looked at the Ottawa-Carleton district school board website and they didn’t have any info about notifying parents, although they do have a pandemic plan and other info in PDF format. (Scroll down to the subhead which reads: “The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board continues its proactive preparations both internally and with external partners to plan for the potential spread of H1N1.”)
The City of Ottawa website had the info I wanted. (Someone emailed this to me recently but it is also from this page.) Bolding is mine.

Will I be notified if there is a confirmed case of novel H1N1 flu in my child’s school, daycare or camp?

On June 1, Ottawa Public Health sent a letter to parents and guardians of children in all elementary and secondary schools in Ottawa to inform them that we were aware of novel H1N1 flu cases in several schools across the city and to advise them about what they could do to protect their children. As is the case with the regular flu season, we do not send a letter to parents each time a case is confirmed in a group environment, nor do we notify individual schools/daycares/camps for sporadic cases. The main point to remember is that we have community spread, and the virus is likely already present in most schools and children and youth’s group environments.

Okaaay, sure. But why not notify the parents anyway? I know they don’t want parents to panic and pull their kids out of school, but shouldn’t tell us if there are confirmed cases in our school? Especially given this (also from the City of Ottawa website):

“While the majority of confirmed cases in Ottawa to date have been relatively mild, and only a few individuals required hospitalization, the pH1N1 flu has tended to affect children and youth more than any other age groups.”

I’m not asking for the names of the sick children to be revealed, but if they notify parents for lice why don’t they do it for H1N1?

My kids are already washing their hands and sneezing into their antecubital regions (a.k.a the crook of your elbow donchyaknow), but shouldn’t we be notified if someone in the school has H1N1 so we can be extra vigilant about handwashing and watch for signs of fever and flu?

What do you think? Should parents be told if there’s a case of swine flu in the school or not? I would love to hear your thoughts.

45 Responses to "Kids, school, and H1N1 (a.k.a the Swine Flu)"

1 | Chantal

October 22nd, 2009 at 8:50 am


BTW my understanding is that the head lice notification is a school by school policy. Our school only notifies immediate friends about a head lice case, not the whole class and definitely not the whole school (which annoys me, but this is their policy at this time).

H1N1 notification is a tough one for me. I don’t want people freaking out, I also don’t want my kids getting sick. Not to mention, how many kids will get the flu that may in fact be H1N1 and never have it confirmed. It seems like such an ineffectual system already. Only kids who are REALLY sick will ever have the strain confirmed and by then everyone who needs to know will probably already know (since they may be in hospital). I don’t think the schools should be stepping up hand washing only after a case is discovered, they should be doing it all the time. And I imagine we will all be watching closely for signs of fever and flu in our kids anyhow. H1N1 is out there, whether we know about it or not. I just don’t know what the correct answer is in this case. Maybe there is no correct answer.

2 | andrea

October 22nd, 2009 at 9:01 am


I don’t know if there’s a correct answer either.

You’re right in that schools (and parents) should be digilant about handwashing anyway, but the sad reality is that there are parents out there who simply don’t know what’s going on despite all the media attention this issue has received. Wouldn’t a note home about a confirmed case in their child’s school help?

3 | Kelly

October 22nd, 2009 at 9:05 am


Ditto to what Chantal said.

I just went through the H1N1 flu experience with my children and I reported it immediately to the school, who handled it very calmly, but yes they didn’t report it to the parents. I’m still on the fence about this one, on one hand I would appreciate knowing so I could re-enforce good hygiene behaviors, cough etiquette etc., but on the other hand I think we’re doing this already and from what I heard from the nurses at CHEO H1N1 is everywhere, and what we can do to prevent getting it is keeping up with good hygiene and keeping ourselves and our children home when there sick. All of these things require huge behaviour changes. I know I generally go to work when I’m sick and this will need to stop. Same goes for sending kids to school.

As for the lice, horrible, but at least there is something we can do to keep it contained so I definitely want to know about it.

4 | Lindsay

October 22nd, 2009 at 9:15 am


I want to know but at the same time I understand it probably doesn’t matter and might only add to the confusion.

H1N1 is everywhere and while she might pick it up at school, she’s just as likely to pick it up from Sparks or from a kid at the babysitter’s. All that would happen if I found out a kid at school had it is that I’d worry even more than I already do… when there’s nothing more I can do than I’m already doing now. *shrug*

And they don’t test for H1N1 anymore really so a confirmed case is rare. They’re watching absentee rates now for indications that it’s circulating… if they tell parents there’s a potential case and everyone keeps their kid home, it’ll look like there’s disease when there isn’t.

I’m trying hard to keep it all in perspective. *sigh* I don’t know… I just want the vaccine to come out so I can get it for her and for me and stop worrying about it. :-)

5 | Karen

October 22nd, 2009 at 9:18 am


My kids go to the Catholic School Board of Eastern Ontario and as far as I know they are not going to tell us of any confirmed cases of H1N1 in the school. We are being asked to immediately tell the school is our children have flu like symptoms. This seems pointless when they don’t plan to do anything with this information.

I would like to be informed if there are any cases, but at the same time if this is like most other illnesses you are contagious before you ever show any symptoms. If this is the case our kids will already have been exposed.

This is also the first year that I haven’t gotten a notice about lice yet. Maybe with all the focus on the flu, head lice has taken a back seat.

6 | Krista

October 22nd, 2009 at 9:18 am


I believe that with seasonal flu and other communicable diseases, schools do not generally provide notification unless a certain percentage of the children are affected and then it is considered an “outbreak”. I think it is important to remember that H1N1 is a flu. Because testing is not likely to be done unless an individual is hospitalized, then it will be impossible to truly distinguish one flu from another.

I have great reservations about the vaccination – it is brand new and largely untested, and as with the seasonal flu shot, not guaranteed to prevent the illness. I will not be getting either flu vaccine nor will my children. If we get sick, it will suck, but since none of is in a high risk group, we will handle it and build up a natural immunity.

7 | andrea

October 22nd, 2009 at 9:23 am


For sure, the kid could pick it up anywhere, but that’s not the issue. Once they get to school they’re in close contact with many many other kids, not to mention touching surfaces that many other people touch too so the spread would happen faster.

Kelly (author of the comment above) had a child with a confirmed case quite recently, so my guess is that testing is still happening.

It is hard to keep things into perspective, for sure. As a parent all you want to do is protect your family, right?

8 | andrea

October 22nd, 2009 at 9:25 am


The reason is that they’re asking parents to report to the school if their kids are sick is that special measures come into effect if 10% of the school population is out sick.

9 | Jenn

October 22nd, 2009 at 9:30 am


My daughter was sick last night with aches, exhaustion and temperature. She is back to her usual self this morning (and off from school today) and I can’t help but wonder ‘was that it?’. I wish there was some home confirmation test so I don’t need to worry myself about vaccines that our paediatrician has advised against or what may be coming.

10 | andrea

October 22nd, 2009 at 9:37 am


Jenn: I feel your pain.

I dread going to the doctor’s office this time of year. But I know we aren’t going to be able to avoid it. Ugh.

11 | Stefania (formerly The Veg Next Door)

October 22nd, 2009 at 9:47 am


A lot of the discussion that I’ve read and heard assumes that there is nothing people can do to prevent getting sick (other than proper hygiene) and getting a shot of some kind. I think this is a good opportunity for health officials to educate people the value of eating properly (fresh fruit and vegetables), getting exercise and fresh air but I haven’t read that anywhere in any of the reports regarding H1N1. All I’ve read is that if you don’t want to get sick then you MUST get a shot and wash your hands.

Hubby, the children and I will not get the H1N1 vaccine and we’ve never gotten a flu shot for that matter. We didn’t make this decision lightly. Hubby and I have discussed this issue extensively.

Do I want to know that someone in my daughter’s school has H1N1? No. I just assume that kids get sick and chances are if H1N1 is going around that someone in her school will get it.

In yesterday’s Ottawa Sun an editorial appeared. It was in support of the H1N1 vaccine. I found this quote interesting, which I think went against the spirit of the editorial: “This is not a skin-to-skin transmitted disease,” said Joel Kettner, Manitoba’s medical officer of health. “Merely shaking hands, even if it’s with someone who has the flu … if you don’t touch your hand to your eyes, nose or mouth before the virus dies, then you are not going to get influenza.”

If we follow that train of thought then a shot isn’t needed because if you don’t touch your face you won’t get sick. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Whether to get a H1N1 shot (or a flu shot) is a personal decision based on various reasons. Parents we need to trust their instincts.

12 | Kristina

October 22nd, 2009 at 10:06 am


We’re not doing any flu shots in our house, probably ever. Similar to your comment regarding “Big Medical” I don’t like blanket treatments, nor do I believe that flu shots are necessary or even that helpful. Flu viruses are constantly mutating; there’s no guarantee that even this latest version of the flu shot will prevent everyone from getting H1N1. I actually can’t understand the mass “hysteria” – although truth be told I don’t know anyone who subscribes to it, which begs the question “Is this just a media-driven issue?”. Seriously, it’s just a flu! As with any other flu there is the risk of this flu taking a turn for the worse, and as with any other illness it is incredibly important to *take care* of yourself in general and more so when you do get sick so that you can, you know, get better. Adequate sleep, nutritious food, etc. I have a problem with pumping everyone full of drugs to do the job our immune systems should be doing. No wonder we’re so susceptible to illness in general these days…our immune systems are so weak from all of the “help”!

13 | Yoni

October 22nd, 2009 at 10:19 am


Hi Andrea,

I’ll be getting the shot, as will my family.

Not sure if that reassures you or not but figured it couldn’t hurt for you to know in your decision making.

Frankly I’m far more concerned about the risks of the flu than the risks of the shot, especially given the population the flu seems to hit hardest and the fact that it’s managed to spread during spring and summer months when people are less likely to have been indoors congregating.

All the best,

14 | sherry

October 22nd, 2009 at 10:26 am


I’m a little concerned about the vaccines too, not because I mind vaccines in general but I worry a bit that this one was so rushed. They were talking about it on Canada AM this morning, asking if people are right to worry about potentially missing some of the safety steps in their hurry but of course she was assured that every precaution was made.

I will probably get it though, even though it gives me pause. Hayley brings home every damn cold that goes through her school and I remember last year there was never a full week the entire winter season where there wasn’t at least one of us sick with something she had brought home with her. I know most cases are icky but generally mild but I just don’t want to take the chance.

I’m on the fence with the warnings. On the one hand, as a parent I really want to know if there are some confirmed (or strongly suspected) cases in my school, especially if any of those cases are in her grade. On the other hand, I know that the school doesn’t want to end up with five students in each class because everyone else was kept home in a panic.

It’s a tough situation, and like one of the others said above, I’m not sure there’s a right answer.

I can’t wait until cold and flu season is over – I’m already looking forward to summer break!

15 | Redheadedmama

October 22nd, 2009 at 11:21 am


I’m always surprised at people’s reluctance to get vaccinated for either the seasonal flu or for H1N1. I do appreciate that it is very personal decision, and that everyone has their own reasons for not wanted to be vaccinated.

However, I worry that many of the reasons I often hear expressed are based on on misinformation (please note this isn’t directed at previous posters specifically). The H1N1 virus circulating this season seems to be causing more deaths of younger children and increased hospitalizations of women in particular (and an increased burden on the health care system as a result of duration and expense of treatment required to treat the sick) than other strains. The vaccine is not experimental – it is “new” only in the same way the seasonal flu vaccine every year is “new”. Globally, clinical trials indicate the H1N1 vaccine is safe and no serious adverse effects have been reported.

“But I’m healthy,” you might argue. “I’ll just build a natural immunity.” Well, as a mom with a chronic illness and a preschool-age daughter (two groups identified as high risk), I respectfully ask that everyone consider that if enough people are immunized against a disease, the entire group is more likely to escape infection. Increased uptake of the vaccination thereby decreases the risk that people at high risk will contract the virus. By getting immunized you might actually help save someone else’s life.

With regards to not informing parents at a school where there have been suspected cases of H1N1 — given that we have already moved beyond containment of the virus and now have community-wide spread of the disease, I don’t see the value in alerting other parents as it wouldn’t accomplish anything besides causing panic and stigmatizing the sick students and their families. Prevention measures (e.g., good personal hygiene) should already be in place.

Please read as much information from legitimate sources as you can (WHO and Public Heath Agency of Canada’s websites being two good ones) and please consider getting vaccinated.

I work in public health, and every day I see the enormous effort that our public health officials exert to make sure they are taking the best, most informed decisions possible for Canadians. There is no collusion with “big pharma,” contrary to what some conspiracy theorists would have you believe – just decisions made on the best scientific evidence available.

Please consider getting vaccinated. You’ll see me at the start of the line!

Can you tell I feel passionately about this? :)

16 | Ginger

October 22nd, 2009 at 11:24 am


The boys will be getting their first round of the vaccine during the first week of November and the second round in December and as soon as my husband and I can get it we will. We have gone back and forth with this but decided to do it.

As far as the Hysteria is concerned, back in the late spring when it first hit here in Texas, and schools were closed and sporting events canceled and such, I thought it was all pretty crazy. But this fall as the confirmed cases of flu rose and the number of children dieing rose, including those that didn’t have underlying conditions I began to rethink a little. Plus we know more about the virus now than back in the late spring.

Yes, I do believe that the media makes things worse. But I also think that taking your child to a “flu party” so he or she can get the flu and get it over with is one of the most irresponsible things you can do. Especially since you don’t know how the flu will effect your child. Perfectly healthy children with NO UNDERLYING conditions have died from this flu (at least here in Texas). I am sorry, but I am not taking the chance.

I don’t think there is one absolute answer and everyone has their own opinions and thoughts. I agree with others that you have to go with what you think is best based on your situation.

17 | Betsy Mae

October 22nd, 2009 at 11:34 am


I would like the school to send home a notice if any kids have H1N1 in my children’s class, or a general letter regarding the number of cases in the school. Although, I’m not sure it would change much. I am already pushing my kids to be diligent about handwashing and I’m still sending them to school despite knowing how many kids are sick.

I would like to see change with parents!!!! If you’ve had a kid home sick with similar symptoms to H1N1 keep your kids home that extra day, don’t be so quick to send them back!!!!!! It makes me so frustrated when I see a kid who the previous day had a fever and was vomiting playing in the school yard with my kid the next day. I think everyone needs to be more cautious about taking time off to recover and to avoid spreading germs.

18 | Stefania (formerly The Veg Next Door)

October 22nd, 2009 at 12:23 pm


Since we’re having a civilized discussion on this topic I’m going to throw this question out there for those who choose not to vaccinate their family:

Was your decision in any way based on the fact that most of the H1N1 vaccinations contain thimerosal (a mercury-based preservative that has been phased out of childhood immunizations since 2001)?

19 | DaniGirl

October 22nd, 2009 at 12:24 pm


Interesting post and comments. I agree with the commenters above who say that informing the parents of an outbreak in the schools will accomplish little and risk much — stigmatization and panic foremost among them.

I know you’re discussing H1N1 in the school more than anything, but FWIW on Twitter this morning someone send me this link that helped me solidify my decision to vaccinate all three boys, including the baby, and the grownups too: http://bit.ly/J4k1c (it links to wired.com)

And BTW, you’ve got the acronym for the flu (or whatever the alpha numeric code is all about) mixed up a few times in your post. :) Sorry, I’m a compulsive editor, I can’t help myself…

20 | andrea

October 22nd, 2009 at 12:42 pm


First, I have to say that I’m really enjoying this highly civilized discussion on this topic. You guys rock.

Second, I corrected my typos. ;)

Third, I love RedHeaded’s comment above and she’s convinced me to do it. There are people in our periphery who have weakened immune systems and we need to think of them.

Fourth, to those who say they wouldn’t want to be notified if there was a case of H1N1 in their child’s school or daycare … do you really? Because I have to say I’m a little surprised by that. I know it technically doesn’t matter (we’re all washing our hands anyway, right?), but wouldn’t you want to know if you’re close to it or not?

21 | Stefania (formerly The Veg Next Door)

October 22nd, 2009 at 12:46 pm


But what could you do knowing that someone in your child’s school, class or daycare has H1N1? Chances are the infected child is not at school. Does knowing change anything?

22 | DanaW

October 22nd, 2009 at 12:47 pm


I was fortunate to sit in on a presentation by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ School Health Committee on Monday (10/19).
The final speaker, a physcian with the NYC Health Department, dedicated her time to H1N1.
It’s a tricky subject as the incidence appears dependent on what part of the country you are in. Some areas are just now getting hit hard whereas others had it hardest last Spring.

Here’s the link to the AAP’s website on their H1N1 guidance: http://aap.org/advocacy/releases/swineflu.htm

Individual states and school systems will define their own policies. Here in Indiana, the recommendation is NOT to let it disrupt the time in the classroom.

As for head lice, AAP stands strongly behind reversing “No Nits” policies to keep kids in school as head lice don’t pose a serious health threat like H1N1.

Good educational information available at myheadlicetreatment.com (including an anonymous feature to let your kid’s friends parents know that head lice is going around (http://myheadlicetreatment.com/tools/alert-a-friend/)

23 | andrea

October 22nd, 2009 at 12:58 pm



Maybe knowing that H1N1 was in the school would encourage the parents of sick children to keep them home an extra day or two?

Maybe it would encourage the parents of healthy kids to take hand washing (and sleep, and health etc) a little more seriously?

Couldn’t it help?

24 | DaniGirl

October 22nd, 2009 at 12:58 pm


What Stefania said, exactly. It would change nothing except my stress levels. I’m assuming it’s everywhere, knowing it won’t change anything except to ratchet up my anxiety about it.

26 | karen at virtually there

October 22nd, 2009 at 2:07 pm


I have two points. The first is nit-picky but I now live in an area that is largely dependent on hog farming so could we all do our best to not use the term swine flu anymore? You can’t get the flu from a pig and it only hurts these very unlucky farmers.

My other point is based on something I read this morning in the paper. Apparently more people die each year from the “regular” forms of influenza than have died so far (and are expected to die) from H1N1. I found this interesting. I have to wonder if the heightened concern now is because more young and middle-age people are susceptible and not the usual over-65 crowd? What does that say about us as a society and whose deaths are worth reporting? Yikes. I am considered high-risk because I’m pregnant and yet I’m still not sure what to do. I’ll likely get the shot and get it for my kids but I’m not thrilled about it knowing what kind of stuff is contained in these vaccines (mercury for one).

27 | Laura

October 22nd, 2009 at 5:04 pm


This is a very interesting thoughtful discussion. Excellent points have been made. I am still on the fence about the vaccination. I have read the articles today (thanks DaniGirl for tweeting two well written differing opinions). My husband and I have never had the flu shot, nor have our children. Not because we are opposed to them but we happen to have doctors and a pediatrician that give flu shots when requested but do not promote them in any way. We have taken our cues from them. Instead we try and eat a very balanced diet, exercise and try to keep our immune system strong. (I agree with Stefania, they should be promoting more than just good hand washing practices.) At the same time I do not want to put anyone with compromised immune systems at risk (thank you Redheadedmama for that important reason). Nor could I bear the thought of not giving it to my children and something unthinkable happens. Here is where I hesitate…I know of 16 health care professionals, in Toronto and here in Ottawa, Dr.s, nurses, therapists who will NOT be getting the H1N1 vaccines nor giving it to their partners/children. Their reasoning when I ask seems to be 1) it is untested, wait until more trials are done before they will take it 2) they have been dealing with it in their practices since the summer months and find it to be less concerning than the standard flu strains. I have read good articles contradicting these points, but when it comes to friends and family in the medical community hesitating…that makes me pause too. I think all we can do is go with what feels right for us and make the best informed decision for ourselves and our families. Thanks for the opinions & be well everyone.

28 | Ryan

October 22nd, 2009 at 7:30 pm


Here in Taiwan, they are especially concerned about contamination and sickness for two reasons – population density and their terrible reaction to SARS. It’s a bit of hype with H1N1 over here, but it’s definitely in the population and spreading, so it’s worth the effort to keep it to a minimum. They have a 2/3/5 rule – if two kids get it within three days (or the other way, three kids in two days), then the class is shut down for five days. Considering schools regularly have hundreds or thousands of students in them every day, this is actually a pretty good way to try and stop infection in its tracts. The government is involved and moves to shut private daycares and cram schools as well if too many students get sick. My daycare was closed last week as the class next to mine had three kids with H1N1. They’re back now and doing fine.

Please stop spreading the mercury myth. Few things have had more studies done to disprove it than this, and every single one has said that there are no side effects from the mercury. There is not a single respected survey that has given evidence otherwise.

29 | Jen

October 22nd, 2009 at 8:03 pm


I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about the vaccine, trying to make a decision. I’m considered high risk at 27 weeks pregnant, and am thinking of *maybe* getting the non-adjuvanted vaccine in a few weeks when it comes available.

Tonight I’m sitting home with a boy who suddenly came down with a fever of 103.6 this afternoon, which makes me think the worse of course. Is it a regular flu? Is it ‘that’ flu? His doctor’s office is not concerned, and has told me what to look out for. So I’m medicating and hydrating him, and praying that he gets over whatever it is quickly.

The whole thing is stressing me out :-(

30 | Stefania (formerly The Veg Next Door)

October 22nd, 2009 at 9:38 pm


I think, as parents, when anything is being injected into our children’s bodies we should be concerned.

31 | Connie

October 23rd, 2009 at 8:14 am


I’m 19 weeks pregnant, I work in an office full of people and have a young daughter in daycare. My impression is that it’s only a matter of time before either of us is exposed to H1N1.
I’ve read more than one story of healthy pregnant women who have ended up on ventilators and lost their babies because of H1N1 complications. And while I’m sure the risk is low, that scares me much more than a vaccine. I’ll be in line on Monday with my daughter for the adjuvanted version of the shot. Wish me luck!

32 | Tracy

October 23rd, 2009 at 9:36 am


I’m with Stefania and DaniGirl. Knowing kids in our school have it won’t change what I do, it will just make me stress more. I know that kids are getting the flu, and whether it is H1N1 or the seasonal flu doesn’t really matter to me, as they both seem to manifest with the same symptoms. Mind you, we’re in a small school, so we’ll probably hear about it anyway :)

We’ll get the H1N1 and seasonal flu shots (not looking forward to the kids getting 3 separate needles this year, that should be fun).

I also agree with those who suspect the media is manufacturing a bit of the hype surrounding H1N1(not to minimize the suffering of anyone who has had either the H1N1 or seasonal flu).

33 | andrea

October 23rd, 2009 at 10:33 am


I have been thinking a lot of my general distrust and you know what, it’s because we’re lied to and mislead so often that we hardly know what to believe.

Newsflash! Giving children acetaminophen after vaccinations may now curb their effectiveness. Trans fats were okay but they’re actually bad. Balloon boy was a big hoax. YKWIM?

It’s hard to know who to believe, and there is so much misinformation about everything out there it’s hard to make an informed decision about anything.

re: sending the letters home.
Some parents (like many of us here who are tracking the issue and trying to inform ourselves) are vigilant and are making our kids wash their hands and use sanitizer and keep our kids home when they are sick, but many DO NOT or choose not to believe the warnings and think that this can’t possibly happen to them. THOSE are the people who’d benefit from the extra information coming home from the schools …

34 | Stefania (formerly The Veg Next Door)

October 23rd, 2009 at 11:12 am


Andrea, is that all vaccinations re: acetaminophen? I ask because so often one of the side effects of vaccinations (sometimes not immediate) is that the child gets a fever so what do parents reach for? Acetaminophen.

I get your frustration about parents sending their kids to school when they’re sick.

35 | amy pisani

October 23rd, 2009 at 11:14 am


First, I have already gotten seasonal flu for both my 5 year old and 9 year old. My 5 year old got his first round of H1N1 and am axiously awaiting availability of vaccine for my 9 year old. Why you ask. Because when my 9 year old was an infant he was hospitalized for flu and it was terrifying for me and my husband. We spent several days watching him receive intravenous fluids w/ his tiny armed strapped to a board to keep from moving. I climbed into his giant crib b/c I couldn’t bare to watch him suffer alone under that oxygen tent. I’ve met too many families whose children never did recover and I’m never taking that chance again.

As for the schools – it’s true they don’t even have a standard policy for the # of kids absent with suspected h1n1 to initiate a school closing. Personally if I was in charge of a school full of kids I would demand a strict policy so the burden was not on my shoulders!

36 | amy pisani

October 23rd, 2009 at 11:19 am


I forgot to add that I work for a great organization that advocates for children’s timely vaccines. – Every Child by Two

Please check out our websites: http://www.ecbt.org, http://www.vaccinateyourbaby.org

Also a great site regarding influenza that I recommend to all my girlfriends (bring a tissue) is http://www.familiesfightingflu.com

And, visit our brand new blog which covers all issues vaccination! http://www.shotofprevention.com

37 | plastikgyrl

October 23rd, 2009 at 3:20 pm


I’m pretty sure I’ve been nursing some kind of flu all week. I’ve been lain FLAT on my butt this week. So far, the kids have been spared. I have no plans to have them vaccinated against H1N1 or the seasonal flu virus. They have yet to be vaccinated against anything. I’ve had an anaphylactic allergic reaction to a vaccine in the past (remember the meningicoccal outbreak in Ottawa in 1991?). My kids’ dad has lupus. The kids have both shown signs of having immune systems that are atypical (asthma in one, excema in the other), and both as infants. The combination of all of this made me far more comfortable with the potential risks of illness than the far more tangible risks of the vaccines when they were babies. Now that they also both have autism (sans MMR, for those who believe that one causes the other!), which some theories believe may have an auto-immune component as well, I’m still wary. As they get closer to puberty without having been exposed to things like the chicken pox, mumps, and rubella, I’m starting to rethink things, but a fairly new and comparatively untested vaccine as their first exposure to immunization doesn’t feel like a good choice for *my* family. I fully respect anyone else’s informed decision to do otherwise. :)

38 | Betsy Mae

October 23rd, 2009 at 8:46 pm


great discussion!

39 | Loukia

October 24th, 2009 at 8:46 pm


I have a strong reason for wanting/wishing my son’s school notified parents if someone in their class has H1N1: my son got pneumonia last year. A really bad case, in which he was hospitalized for over 2 weeks, and such a bad case that he required surgery in his lung to drain fluid. He had a chest tube for 4 days draining more fluid, was on morphine and an oxygen mask, and of course, had an IV, countless blood work done, and x-rays, c/t scan, ultrasounds. It was a nightmare of the worst kind, to say the least. And I want to know if someone my son sees everyday is sick with THIS flu since it seems to be a pretty big deal – in SOME cases. I’m not saying my son will get very sick again – what are the chances? No doctor has indicated that to us, but still. After going through that, I want to know what I can do to help my child. If someone is sick with this flu in his school, perhaps I’d take him to his doctors and ask for advice… keep him home… I don’t know. I just feel like we do have a right to know. I also hope all parents are smart enough to keep their kids home if they have a fever/cough.
Also, I’m pretty sure I am NOT getting the H1N1 vaccine, and neither are my boys. It is WAY too new. And that scares me more than the actual flu itself. I just wish it would go away. On one hand, I feel like the media is making it a bigger deal than it is, on the other hand… maybe it is such a big deal. BUT remember that most people who have had it have gotten in mild. Even those who have had to be hospitalized recorvered quickly with Tamiflu… why are we not just all getting Tamiflu when we have early symptoms, even mild? Why treat only the REALLY SICK? Gosh I’m upset now! Sorry for ranting here Andrea!

40 | Sarah

October 26th, 2009 at 9:21 am


What a great discussion, Andrea. I work for CBC Radio’s afternoon show All in a Day. I would love to have this discussion on our show. If anyone is interested in sharing their point of view with me, send me an email at Sarah.macfadyen@cbc.ca.

Also I am searching for people who think they have had HINI for another discussion on the show. I feel that is one voice we really haven’t heard much from.

41 | Joanne

October 26th, 2009 at 7:38 pm


Hi everyone,

I was wondering if anyone out there (including you Andrea) have been swayed in their view of whether they’ll take the vaccine in the face of the unbelievably sad news of the Cornwall girl’s death?


42 | Laurie

October 26th, 2009 at 8:28 pm


One concern for me re. the vaccine, was the use of mercury-based thimerosal in the vaccine. I found this on the Health Canada website which put it into perspective for me:

Thimerosal is a form of mercury used in the H1N1 flu vaccine to stabilize it and maintain its quality during storage. Thimerosal is a different form of mercury than the mercury known to cause health problems. The amount in flu vaccines is much less than the daily limit recommended – for example a can of tuna fish has more mercury than the thimerosal in the H1N1 flu vaccine.

43 | andrea

October 27th, 2009 at 8:17 am


Joanne: I was leaning towards getting the vaccine (for myself and my daughters) but the case of the girl dying really hit it home for me … made it seem real.

I can’t imagine how those parents are feeling right now.

We need to look at it this way: the benefits of getting the vaccine far outweighs the small risk of side effects. So as soon as the swine line gets a little more manageable we’re going.

44 | Momma of Two

October 27th, 2009 at 9:49 pm


Hi concerned parents,
I just finished reading the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website concerning the virus and vaccination. Its been such a tough decision for our family as we have a 15 mo old son and 5 year old daughter, both in school and daycare. We have chosen as a family not to get vaccinated.
If I were to have my son vaccinated, he would be given two doses of the Adjuvented vaccine (which is the vaccine with a smaller dose of the Antigen-the viral component which causes the building of antibodies to be produced, as well as a Booster component)
This is a form of the vaccine which is being called “untested in pregnant women” therefore pregnant women in Canada are only being given an Unadjuvanted form of the vaccine which does not contain any Booster properties but does contain more of the Antigen. The Adjuvanted Vaccine contains 5 mg of Thimerosol (mercury) where as the Unadjuvanted for Pregnant women contains 50 mg of Thimerosol, which is less then what is found in a can of Tuna (…what brand? I dunno)
The Adjuvanted Vaccine has a 9 out of 10 chance of preventing H1N1 where as the Unadjuvanted vaccine only prevents 6 out of 10. The US has chosen not to give Adjuvanted vaccines to infants or children under 10 years of age based on the lack of “information available as to its effects on young children” but Canada is taking the risk. Canada has chosen to give 2 half doses 21 days apart because there is less chance of an “adverse reaction”.
I so appreciate that Canada has explained they’re decisions and why they made them but it does not put me at ease. People are irreversibly harmed from Adverse effects of the vaccine, people are irreversibly harmed from the flu. I believe in good nutrition, I believe in good hygiene. I don’t like Antibacterial products being used to much in my home because it kills our body’s natural first lines of defence. Our bodies naturally attract and produce healthy bacteria and antibodies which is increased through healthy diet, exposure to dirt and the outdoors, exercise etc. I don’t discourage the use of Purel during this pandemic but more as a general life principle. Its an unhealthy decision to use Antibacterial products on a regular basis.
So our family decision is to take the unvaccinated form of risk and trust that our bodies will do what they are supposed to as we also take all hygienic precautions. I would advise individuals who have preexisting conditions or are prone to frequent sickness to get the vaccine. Its a tough choice, its good to know the facts.

45 | Nichole

October 29th, 2009 at 6:54 pm


Id give anything to be able to get all of my kids vaccinated against H1N1 I have a baby that just got his vaccine , and my 16 year old daughter got hers but its priority first and they will not give my other kids or myself the vaccine right now because they just dont have enough , My baby is suppose to go back for his second H1N1 vaccine in 4 weeks but they told me they might not even have any vaccines left by then so it wont work :( I have pulled my kids out of school since my daughters friend had a confirmed case of the h1n1 flu the school continues to lie to us and tell us they have no comfirmed cases in their school yet , but I know for a fact they have many cases in that school , the nurse at the health department told me she called the school and told them herself , the school my kids go to is small only a little over 300 students k through 12 and everyday this week there has been over 70 kids missing , I think the school should be honest with parents , my 16 year old has alot of health problems and if she caught this flu it could kill her … does anyone know if I can get in trouble for keeping my kids home after so many days ? I know its 15 days and without contact with the school you can get in trouble but Ive been getting homework and taking it back , My kids are very smart and are doing well .

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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