WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA)-- Jacob's wife and daughter are at his bedside in the intensive care unit of Sibley Memorial Hospital. The Washington D.C. resident tested positive for a nasty strain of the flu circulating this year called H3-N2. That was on December 17th. He went into respiratory failure days later.
Francine Weiss is Jacob's wife. She says, "He could hardly breathe. He started choking and people rushed into his room and they put a ventilator on and I talked to my daughter because it scared me a lot. And I said, 'is he dying?' And she didn't really say anything. It was very serious."
Jacob has been on a respirator for three weeks now, so his lungs have a chance to recover and heal. His specialist is Dr. Carlos Picone of Chevy Chase Pulmonary Associates.
Dr. Picone says, "He has inflammation in both lungs that doesn't spare any portion of the lungs so the treatment is supportive until the lungs heal. And that's what the ventilator is doing for this patient. Essentially, it is providing the oxygen and the mechanical support and so hopefully those lungs can heal."
Dr. Picone says Jacob's immune system was compromised because of a previous bone marrow transplant. Two other patients in his care, both with chronic lung disease, died of flu complications last week.
Dr. Picone says this has been a bad year for flu complications, but not unexpected.
He says, "Yes, compared to the past three or four seasons, this has been a bad season but this is the way influenza behaves. Essentially you have 3, 4, or 5 seasons that are relatively low severity. And then, when the virus drifts and changes enough to find that the 'herd' immunity in the society and the matching with the vaccine is somewhat off, then that is a window for the virus to get the upper hand and for the severity of the illness to increase."
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That's why Dr. Picone says everyone, ages six months and up, needs to get a flu shot annually. While the vaccine is not 100% effective, it will shorten the duration of illness if a person is infected, and hopefully prevent the worst complications.
Jacob didn't get the vaccine, and his family wants to emphasize its importance. And they just want him to recover, and come home.
His wife Francine says, "He is doing better. We are very hopeful."