Terra Sigillata


If you think that the H1N1 pandemic is slowing down and have grown complacent with vaccination now that vaccines are more widely available, please learn something from last night’s tragic loss of local college student from Rhode Island, Lillian Chason:

A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student, who friends said was battling complications from the H1N1 virus, died Wednesday evening, according to UNC Hospitals and a Facebook post made by her father.

Freshman Lillian Chason had been in critical condition at UNC Hospitals for weeks. Friends told WRAL News on Tuesday that she started feeling bad before Thanksgiving and went into the hospital on Nov. 20.

“I’m sorry to have to tell everyone that Lillian died this afternoon at 5:20 PM,” her father, Eric Chason, wrote on Facebook Wednesday. “As you all know, she put up an incredible fight and if there was anyway she could have overcome this disease, she would have.”

I don’t know anything about this case other than what is appearing in the local and Rhode Island media and what appears on the Facebook page. However, it appears that Ms. Chason had no underlying pulmonary disease or other health issues.

This is the kind of death we have been worrying about with H1N1: one that strikes the very healthy, young adult population.

Ms. Chason had the best quality of care at one of the top US academic medical centers. I suspect that the UNC Health Care team is distraught and felt helpless in the face of the complication of H1N1 that they could not overcome even with the best medical tools.

Ironically, today’s paper has an article by Sarah Avery entitled, “H1N1 shots arrive as demand dies down.”

So, young and healthy US readers of ScienceBlogs, more H1N1 vaccine has become available around the country so that those at “the back of the line” can now receive theirs. Lauren Neergaard at AP reports that 100 millions doses are estimated to be available by the week’s end.

The vaccine is, of course, not 100% effective but the loss of Lillian Chason should remind us that any shot you have at reducing risk is worth it.

As a father of a young girl, my heart aches for the Chason family.

If you are so inclined, you may register your condolences with the family here.


  1. #1 chemgeek
    December 17, 2009

    I get mine on Saturday.

    The increasing apathy is unfortunate. A recent flu clinic in Minneapolis expected to dispense 4500 doses but only dispensed 2000. I doubt (based on anecdotal evidence) the rates of immunization will reach “herd immunity” levels. Sadly, there may be more deaths of healthy individuals.

  2. #2 Chuck
    December 17, 2009

    To be completely honest, there has never been a year where herd immunity has been achieved for influenza.

  3. #3 chemgeek
    December 17, 2009

    Chuck- True, but seasonal flu has never been given the attention H1N1 has. This does bring up an interesting question that may not have an easy answer: at what point does herd immunity become a “reliable” factor? Can this even be quantified? Is 90% good enough, 99%? I presume statistical studies have been done, but I’m sure the results vary with different viruses. Sorry, I’m typing (thinking) out loud. Maybe someone has some insights.

  4. #4 Jeff
    December 17, 2009

    Yea spread the FEAR. The media and outlets like this do more harm than good.

  5. #5 Elf Eye
    December 17, 2009

    Radford University (Radford, Virginia) held a flu clinic for its students, offering both H1N1 and seasonal flu shots at nominal cost. My daughter attends New River Community College (Dublin, Virginia), but she was allowed to come in and get an H1N1 shot at the Radford flu clinic. Thank you, Radford University! (New River Community College later offered its students free doses of the nasally-administered H1N1 vaccine. Bravo to them as well.)

  6. #6 justme
    December 17, 2009

    Non-trad senior here … and I got mine free through campus as a priority before I go into clinical rotation for spring semester. The seasonal shot is required for clinicals, and I got the pandemic shot because I know how to read the CDC’s weekly FluView!

    I’m just sorry it takes the death a vibrant-looking young lady to wake some folks up … there are still kids on campus who are certain they have nothing to worry about because “it’s just the flu.”

  7. #7 katydid13
    December 17, 2009

    DC just got vaccine for general population use. Luckily, I can get one at work with relatively little hassle. I wonder how long the line will be.

  8. #8 mxh
    December 17, 2009

    Yeah, it’s pretty sad. I spent a few weeks at our pathology department and saw the messed up effects of H1N1 on healthy lungs. Not a pleasant sight.

  9. #9 LinzeeBinzee
    December 18, 2009

    Wow that’s so sad. I got my shot two days ago and the slightly sore arm is worth the peace of mind. It’s too bad people are so afraid of the vaccine, there’s so much bad info out there. My pregnant sister (she had the baby yesterday) didn’t get it because she had heard all this vague information about squalene and mercury, that seems to be the case with most people I talked to. Cases like Desiree Jennings got so much publicity, yet it seems like the H1N1 deaths are brushed off. Nobody has died from the vaccine, but people around me just say “oh it’s like any other flu, no need for the vaccine”. They think if they get it they’ll end up walking backwards, but they don’t bother to consider the way more obvious risk of not getting it.

  10. #10 Linzeebinzee
    December 18, 2009

    Oops…that last sentence should start “They think if they get the vaccine…”

    just to clarify…

  11. #11 Margaret
    December 18, 2009

    So very sad and no words can express what this family is going through.
    My 23 yr old daughter was only able to find the nasal spray vaccine and I have read conflicting reports on its efficacy, which trouble me. I have even wondered if she should go ahead now and get the shot in addition to the nasal spray vaccine, now that it’s so available. However, as a lay person, I don’t know if that would be a safe thing to do. Any info or comments on this?

  12. #12 Chuck
    December 18, 2009


    The 2008 influenza season is the last one that I have information for.

    Stratifying both Census and CDC information, 30% of the total population received the seasonal influenza vaccine. That year’s vaccine was a poor match for the most prevalent strains, so the effectiveness was estimated by the CDC to be 40%. That means that only 12% of the population would not be vectors of further infection that could be attributable to the vaccine.

  13. #13 red rabbit
    December 20, 2009

    @Margaret: it would be safe, just not really necessary.

    Sad, sad stuff.

  14. #14 Rowan
    December 20, 2009

    I received the H1N1 shot last Sunday when it became available in my area.

    A friend of mine died from complications of the H1N1 flu after seventeen days in the ICU. She didn’t have any underlying medical conditions. She was the ripe old age of thirty two.

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