In February 2020, a 4-year-old boy from Colorado tragically died from complications from influenza. NBC News then posted a defamatory news piece about the boy’s death, full of false allegations against the boy’s mother.1
Outrageously, the NBC News piece, written by Brandy Zadrozny, does not include any direct quotes from the family, and it’s reported that she did not interview the boy’s parents, but rather relied on Facebook postings and a GoFundMe page for the details.
In fact, the NBC News article states “the mother did not respond to a request for comment,” and added, “NBC News verified the posts by cross-referencing them with a fundraising page set up by the family, along with published news reports quoting the family.”2 The problem with this is that Zadrozny’s article blames the boy’s grieving mother for his death because of posts she made on Facebook relating to the drug Tamiflu.
“On Facebook, anti-vaxxers urged a mom not to give her son Tamiflu. He later died,” NBC stated, adding, “Online groups that routinely traffic in anti-vaccination propaganda have become a resource for people seeking out a wide variety of medical information,” and “Boy dies after anti-vaxxers urge mom not to give him Tamiflu.”3
These statements are misleading on many levels and, as CNS News noted, it’s possible the news outlet could be facing a defamation lawsuit as a result.4
NBC News Uses Boy’s Death to Slam ‘Anti-Vaxxer’ Groups
The focus of the NBC News article are posts made by the boy’s mother to a Facebook group called, “Stop Mandatory Vaccination.” There, she reportedly asked for advice, stating her doctor had prescribed the influenza medicine Tamiflu (oseltamivir) for everyone in her household because two of her four children had been diagnosed with flu.
The posts suggest that she decided not to pick up the prescription, but no further reporting was done to find out if she did or did not ultimately give the medication.
Posts from the Facebook group’s members included suggestions of natural remedies, but as Zadrozny wrote, “None of the 45 comments on the mother’s Facebook post suggested medical attention. The child was eventually hospitalized and died four days later,” which implies there was somehow a connection between the Facebook comments and the boy’s death — a grossly misleading journalistic leap.5
Not only did Zadrozny’s article incite death threats and calls for prison time and execution against the boy’s mother, but, as CNS News reported, “Lost in all of these crazed point-and-sputter diatribes were some pertinent, pesky facts.”6 This includes the glaring omission of not interviewing the family.
It’s unclear whether or not the family chooses to vaccinate their children and what type of medical interventions occurred before the boy’s death. However, it’s stated on the family’s GoFundMe page that the boy seemed normal, but suddenly passed out after a bath.
After calling 911, he was airlifted to a children’s hospital. A GoFundMe post that has since been deleted originally said the child had “an anoxic brain injury related to a seizure that may have occurred from a fever or from him losing his airway.”7 Only once he was in the hospital was the boy tested for influenza and found to be positive for influenza B and parainfluenza.
Still, the NBC News article focuses on Tamiflu and suggests the mother chose not to give it based off Facebook posts. However, when speaking with the local CBS Denver news station, the boy’s mother stated, “We called the doctors. We called the hospital. We gave them the medicine we were instructed to give. We did everything.”8
Tamiflu Shortens Flu by Only 16 Hours
Painting Tamiflu as the solution to stopping deaths from influenza is also misleading, as the drug has been found to shorten the duration of flu symptoms by less than a day, specifically, by just 16.8 hours, and did not affect the number of hospitalizations, according to a BMJ review.9
What’s more, the drug is said to inhibit the replication of the influenza virus, acting as an antiviral medication, but a Cochrane Review of the data on both Tamiflu and Relenza (zanamivir), another antiviral drug, noted that the drugmakers’ proposed mechanism of action, which suggests the drugs work via a multisystem and central action, does not fit with the clinical evidence they reviewed.
Any beneficial effects of the drug may have occurred due to lowering levels of proinflammatory cytokines or via depressing the central nervous system, the review found.10
It should be noted, too, that a whistleblower lawsuit has been filed against drugmaker Roche, alleging the company made false claims and misrepresented studies, causing the U.S. government to stockpile $ 1.5 billion of its influenza medicine Tamiflu (oseltamivir).11
The lawsuit, which was unsealed in September 2019, alleges Roche duped the U.S. government into stockpiling Tamiflu while mispresenting its effectiveness. According to the Houston-based Lanier Law Firm, which filed the suit:
“The lawsuit claims the drugmaker’s scheme involved publishing misleading articles falsely stating that Tamiflu reduces complications, severity, hospitalizations, mortality and transmission of influenza. The company then used those articles to aggressively market the drug to the government for pandemic use.”12
In a BMJ editorial, Mark Ebell, professor of epidemiology at the University of Georgia, even described a multisystem failure that allowed Tamiflu to become a blockbuster medication.13
Examples of systemwide failures that let Tamiflu slip through regulatory cracks included a failure to publish all available evidence and make that data available at the individual patient level, along with a failure of recognizing the limitations inherent to observational data.
Considering the long-standing studies questioning Tamiflu’s effectiveness and safety, implying that a mother is at fault for her child’s death from influenza complications because she did not give Tamiflu is not only cruel but illogical.
Teen Girl Dies After Receiving Tamiflu
In deciding whether or not to take a medication, or give it to your child, the benefits must outweigh the risks. With Tamiflu, this is highly questionable. In exchange for reducing the duration of flu symptoms by 16.8 hours, Tamiflu causes nausea and vomiting and increases the risk of headaches and renal and psychiatric syndromes.14
Further, the NBC News article blatantly suggests that the Colorado boy died from flu because the mother, at the behest of “anti-vaxxers,” did not give the boy Tamiflu. But taking Tamiflu is not a guarantee of survival.
In Virginia, a 16-year-old girl died after being diagnosed with influenza B and going into cardiac arrest. She had received a flu shot15 and taken Tamiflu, vomited several times over the course of a few days, likely due to Tamiflu’s side effects, but sadly succumbed to the flu anyway.16
A 16-year-old girl from Ohio also died from influenza B in December 2019 despite taking Tamiflu.17 Others have also died due to psychiatric symptoms caused by the drug itself. Tamiflu and Relenza are part of a group of anti-influenza drugs called neuraminidase inhibitors, which work by blocking a viral enzyme that helps the influenza virus to invade cells in your respiratory tract.
The problem is that your nervous system also contains neuraminidase enzymes essential for proper brain functioning, and when blocked with these dangerous drugs, severe neurotoxicity may ensue, especially in the infants and children whose blood-brain barrier has not yet developed sufficiently.
One 6-year-old girl in Texas had hallucinations while taking Tamiflu and even tried to jump out of a second story window.18 A 16-year-old boy with no prior suicidal thoughts or depression committed suicide less than 24 hours after taking the drug, which his parents believe is what caused the suicide.19
Japan banned the use of Tamiflu in children and teens in 2007, after cases of teenagers trying to jump from apartment building windows while taking the drug. In 2018, the country lifted the ban, but still said the relationship between Tamiflu and the unusual actions is unclear and patients should be warned of such side effects.20
Natural Methods for Flu Prevention
It’s undeniably tragic when a child dies from any disease, including complications from influenza. While health officials state that getting vaccinated is your best defense against this infection, during the 2018-2019 flu season, the vaccine failed to offer any protection more than half of the time, and for adults over 50, it was more or less useless, offering a mere 24% effectiveness rate against all influenza types.21
During the 2019-2020 season as well, the flu vaccine is not a perfect match. A survey of early season infections in Louisiana revealed unusual influenza B activity.
Eighty-three influenza B viruses were sequenced from 198 patients, revealing that 98% belonged to influenza B/Victoria V1A.3 subclade, while only one of the viruses belonged to subclade V1A.1, which, according to the CDC, “is the subclade of the influenza B/Victoria component (B/Colorado/06/2017) found in the 2019 to 2020 Northern Hemisphere vaccine.”22
Everyone should strive to bolster their health during flu season to stay healthy, and one way to do this is by eating a keto diet, which reduced the number of times flu symptoms appeared in an animal study.23
The association between low vitamin D levels and influenza has also been recognized for some time,24 so be sure to optimize your levels to between 60 and 80 ng/mL (150 and 200 nmol/L). Vitamin D testing and optimization has been shown to cut your risk of respiratory infections, including colds and flu, in half if you are vitamin D deficient.25,26
Nutrients that support healthy immune function include zinc and vitamin C, so make sure to include these in your diet on a daily basis. Should a cold or flu strike, you may be able to significantly cut its duration and severity using either high-dose vitamin C or D (or a combination of both, short-term) and/or zinc lozenges. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is also a powerful antiviral that “exhibits multiple modes of therapeutic action against influenza infection.”27
Following other basic tenets of health, like eating right, getting sound sleep, exercising and addressing stress are also important, as is regularly washing your hands. Even simple interventions like changing the humidity levels in your home can reduce the survival of influenza virus in the air.28
During flu season, and all year long, following a healthy lifestyle will support your immune system — your body’s best defense against infections like influenza. Meanwhile, remain vigilant when hearing sensationalized stories surrounding the flu like the once posted by NBC News — and be sure you have all the facts before making a judgment one way or the other.