Sunday, May 03, 2009

Autism, Vaccines, and the Swine Flu

The discussion about the potential swine flu pandemic and vaccine has started up in autism circles already.  A New York school for autistic kids was closed after an outbreak.  I can't say that I haven't been thinking about this myself.  If you have read this blog for any amount of time, you know I am not of the vaccine school in regards to my son.  I think the onset of Jimmy's autism was tied to the first ear infections and the constant presence of antibiotics in his system for over a year until we hit our first set of tubes.  But the fact that the first area case of swine flu was in a special needs classroom at Rockville High School weighs on me.

If you are a student of American history, you have heard about the outbreak in 1918.  If you read the deeper press coverage today, the pandemic in 1918 and those that have been more recent have been marked by a mild spring outbreak followed by a more virulent fall wave of illness.  I know many are debating getting the flu shot, given than in 1976, the flu shots killed more than the flu itself.  I will opt to get the shot for myself and Jacob.  But this article
and its discussion of Guillian-Barre Syndrome is giving me some pause. I always fear Jimmy getting sick. He can't tell me what's wrong, how he feels, where it hurts. He is a horrible patient, physically combative in everything from doctor's appointments to taking Tylenol. In a virulent outbreak, especially as someone who will not understand concepts like social distancing or even simple things like covering his mouth when he coughs, I fear for his life. But the way GBS is describes, I think I fear that as well, as he is unable to describe any sort of neurological side effect of a flu shot.  It's a double edged sword.

The media has the fear level cranked up as it always does, but I am facing a difficult choice in the fall when it comes to the swine flu.  And it isn't just the shot.  With a child who doesn't understand basic hygiene and personal space, in my estimation, Jimmy runs a higher risk than other children of contracting the swine flu in a widespread outbreak.  I have a few months to figure out what the best approach is to keeping him (as well as the rest of us) safe.  

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