Cerebrospinal meningitis due to influenza bacillus
This 4-month-old was suspected to have developed meningitis due to the influenza bacillus crossing into the brain either by the frontal sinus (which is thin to begin with, but extremely delicate in young children), or through the nasopharyngeal lymph channels near the base of the brain.
The brain was found to be partially covered in a muco-purulent exudate, with a large necrotic patch in the right frontal lobe. The infant had several seizures during the course of the illness, but it was suspected that they were febrile seizures (caused by high fever and not uncommon in babies), and unrelated to the necrosis of the frontal lobe. The bacterial infiltration of the cortex was suspected to have blocked one or more blood vessels, causing a stroke.
Influenza may not be killing off 5% of our population every year like it did in 1918 (which was after this case and, interestingly, spared the frail and killed the healthy), but it’s still a fatal disease to many infants and elderly patients. And really, even the healthiest person can come down with really awful complications from the yearly flu virus. It just happens to be much more prevalent in those whose bodies are not fully capable of fighting off infection.
So if you’ve had the flu recently, and felt awful and unable to breathe and your body hurt like you had been sleeping on a bed of lumpy rocks, you probably can see where bad complications can come from. But if you never get the flu or haven’t had it in ages, don’t think it’s just some little thing, or just like a bad cold or something. It’s something that’s actually worth going out of your way to protect yourself (and those around you) from!
Diseases of Infancy and Childhood. Louis Fischer, 1917.