Palo Alto man dies from swine flu

For family, H1N1 brought 'hell'

A 58-year-old Palo Alto man has died after contracting the H1N1 influenza virus, and his family became seriously ill.

Jeffrey Kane, a longtime resident and Gunn High School graduate, contracted the illness on Dec. 27. He died on Jan. 29 after a long battle against its complications, his widow, Molly Kane, told the Weekly.

Jeffrey Kane in the 1970s.
The Kanes and their 11-year-old daughter were all sickened by the flu at the same time. He developed pneumonia and spent more than three weeks in the hospital and a rehabilitation facility, she said.

This year's flu has killed 14 people in Santa Clara County and six in San Mateo County so far, according to county public-health officials. It has hit younger and middle-aged persons particularly hard, since they likely are too young to have built immunity from the last swine-flu epidemic, officials have said. The total number of California deaths from the swine flu is unknown, as state law only requires medical professionals to report deaths in persons ages 17 to 65.

Molly Kane said she wants the public to know how dangerous H1N1 can be.

"Oh my god, this was unlike any flu I've ever had. Just the phlegm I was coughing up. It was so thick, and you couldn't really bring it up, and you couldn't breathe if you couldn't bring it up. It was hell — it was really hell," she said.

That feature — a thick, green mucus that is hard to cough up — is what set the H1N1 flu apart from others, she said. Anyone who experiences such symptoms should see a doctor immediately.

Jeffrey Kane also had the flu, and it developed into pneumonia, during the 2012-13 flu season. He was underweight at the time he caught this year's flu, she said.

The family did not get flu shots this year, she added. Although he was ill, he did not immediately go to the doctor because the family did not have much money, and he didn't want to incur a higher insurance deductible, she said.

Instead, he thought he could ride it out as he always had.

"We miss him. He didn't have to die. If he had gotten his flu vaccine and we had seen a doctor immediately, he would not have died. He was trying to save us that cost, and he paid for it," Molly Kane said.

As she and her family try to pull together their lives after this sudden loss at the hands of a microbe, Molly Kane said she wants the word to spread about taking precautions against this disease and its power to kill.

She and her daughter are safeguarding their health by applying for insurance under the Affordable Care Act — aka, ObamaCare.

"It will really make a difference," she said.

Jeffrey Kane's sister, Linda Kane, said she is left with the memories of a brother she deeply loved. She did not want to focus on the what-ifs. Her brother was a private person, and she said she wants to honor his memory. When she posted an obituary for her brother on Palo Alto Online's Lasting Memories, the words did not come easily. She decided to mention that he died from H1N1, she said.

"At first I thought, 'It's nobody's business that he got sick and died,'" she said. But the flu's impact, and lingering questions that people who knew him would have, made her decide to write about H1N1, she said.

"People are sitting and watching TV and a reporter will say, 'There's been another flu death in Santa Clara County,'" she said.

But revealing that her brother died of the illness "makes it personal." Dying from the flu is not abstract, she said, adding that the loss of her only, younger brother is raw and real.

"He was my brother — the person you sat with in your pajamas on a rainy day; or the person you played cards with or ganged up with on your parents. I remember when he fell asleep on my lap in my arms.

"You may have seen him on the street or in the grocery store two weeks ago, and now he is gone. There's a ripple effect. This person had parents and cousins, and his cousins were a big deal to him. It is about the person and not about the thing that killed them," she said.

The good memories are helping her through the grief, she added.

"I don't think I have any special skills to get me through. Losing a sibling — losing your only sibling — it's very hard. Now I'm an only child," she said.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at


Like this comment
Posted by Quercus
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2014 at 3:59 pm

My deepest sympathies to his family. They deserve kind support from our community.

Vaccinations do greatly reduce the number of illnesses but they are not 100% perfect. The young and healthy can still be taken by aggressive viruses or bacterial infections despite vaccination history.

Life is precious. Don't delay to show your loved ones how you feel about them.

Like this comment
Posted by Sympathies
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2014 at 1:32 am

Sadly the H1N1 seems to hit particularly hard and fast. My spouse who is the same age, and always gets the flu shot, had H1N1 before they put it in the vaccine, and it developed so fast. One night, feeling a little bad, and the next morning in urgent care for breathing treatment and blue. I have been going for vaccination every year ever since, but never took it seriously til then because of thinking just old people needed it. Not so. I'm so sorry for your loss, but thank you for trying to help others even in your pain.

Since it's not included above - The link to the online memorial is:
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Aquamarine
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 1, 2014 at 11:10 am

Does the Kane family need any financial assistance that people in the community can offer???

I am so terribly sorry for the loss of their beloved family member. My heart aches for them.

Like this comment
Posted by Umm
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2014 at 8:44 am

[Post removed.]

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Posted by Wife of M.D.
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 3, 2014 at 9:21 am

[Post removed.]

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Posted by 35 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 3, 2014 at 10:35 am

Deepest sympathy to the family. Flu vaccines do not prevent one from getting the flu. They may reduce possibility in some individuals but they are by no means the protective shield they are touted to be and in fact, many who get the vaccines develop the flu shortly after receiving the shot.

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Posted by Yes but
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 3, 2014 at 11:27 am

Too bad the article had to throw in an advert for obamacare. Especially since it is not, in fact particularly affordable. If it were affordable, this family might've purchased it last Fall and had coverage when flu struck.

Another slight problem with the article: The worst flu I ever had was after having received the flu shot. So ... nothing is guaranteed, precautions should always be taken in addition to getting a shot that might or might not work.

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Posted by Aquamarine
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 3, 2014 at 11:51 am

Thank you, RW. I'd like to stay on topic. That means if this family wants or needs help, can we do anything for them? Since nothing has been publicized on helping them, I'm guessing not.

It's absolutely fine that they're recommending the vaccine. I hope readers heed their words.

May he rest in peace.

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Posted by Allen Edwards
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 3, 2014 at 11:54 am

@Yes but... Too bad you had to throw in a dig on the ACA. You are helping spread the misinformation that the ACA is not affordable. Many people will qualify for subsidies that make it truly cheap. In my wife's case, we did not qualify for any subsidy and we decided to get the most expensive ACA policy offered, the Platinum plan, with its $0 deductible. Her policy went from $24,000 a year to $12,000. We considered that more affordable. The Bronze plan was much cheaper but when you are saving as much as we are, we went for the best. The Bronze plan was about $8,000, one third of her previous premium.

If you don't have insurance, go to the California Covered site and see. Don't listen to the lies. Otherwise, you might end up like this the subject of this article.

Like this comment
Posted by ChrisC
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 3, 2014 at 12:26 pm

ChrisC is a registered user.

This is so sad. My sincere condolences to the family. He sounds like a lovely person.

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Posted by RW
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Allen Edwards-While $12,000 may sound affordable to you, and it is *more* affordable than your previous plan, I would not consider that "affordable".

My husband and I don't qualify for subsidies because subsidies are based on household income, not individual income. I receive insurance through work, he does not. So, we're left with options that are more than we can afford. Same reason we're not having kids-they're more than we can afford.

Like this comment
Posted by Winkie
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2014 at 12:43 pm

How can we get information about helping out this particular family with food, etc?

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Posted by igorm
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 3, 2014 at 3:06 pm

How many more people need to die from curable illnesses in this great country so the people would see that insurance business is not working? It is killing people.

That would not have happened had we had a single payer system.
We do not need to invent anything, just look at what other countries are already successfully using, for years. Hello? Hello?

As they say, we'll eventually arrive to the right solution, after we try all the wrong ones, first.

Like this comment
Posted by 35 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 3, 2014 at 3:27 pm

How does converting to a single payer system keep someone from getting the flu and/or a disease that kills them?

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Posted by Not
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 3, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Universal health care isn't the answer. People in Canada who can afford to have procedures in the U.S. are flying to the U.S. to have the procedures because if they wait for it in Canada, it can take months. Imagine waiting 3 months for removal of cancer when you can fly to here and have it removed within a week in the Midwest at the Mayo Clinic. Happens all the time. Kaiser discourages procedures because they lose money according to a physician in private practice.

A flu shot is $20 at Walgreen's all day - couldn't be easier. And to those who mistakenly think the vaccine gives the person the flu, that's pure misinformation. The shot is dead flu virus; the nasal spray is live flu virus so can produce symptoms.

Here's answers: Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by The Obamacare truth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 3, 2014 at 5:38 pm

The fact of Obamacare is that in order to make it cheap or free for the uninsured, they had to make absurdly expensive for the already insured; and then, many of the insured had their affordable care jerked out from under them, and were forced to buy insurance that cost 50% or more of their net income. Just so the uninsured could be insured for little or nothing.

Like this comment
Posted by Get it or be tragic
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 3, 2014 at 5:43 pm

I am amazed that people don't get the flu vaccine and instead roll the dice each year. What does it take to convince people? Hopefully, this tragic story. Sure, you can catch a different strain of the flu even if you get the shot (only 4 are covered in the vaccine), but why risk catching H1N1?

Like this comment
Posted by Old professor
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 3, 2014 at 8:11 pm

It takes at least 14 days for a flu shot to build up enough immunity in your body to be effective. So, yes, it is possible to get the flu a few days after getting a flu shot. And, yes, it won't protect you against all strains of the flu, just the ones that are likely to be prevalent in your area. Still, it is inexpensive and well worth the minimal effort involved.

Like this comment
Posted by DonaldS
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 3, 2014 at 8:27 pm

It is also worth pointing out that the higher the percentage of people that get the flu vaccine the more difficulty the virus has spreading. There is a threshold where it can't spread at all. Misinformation such as "I got sick from the vaccine" scares people from getting the kind of immunity that protects us all. As was pointed out, it takes 2 weeks for the vaccine to work so it is possible to get the flu days after the shot and it has nothing to do with the shot.

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Mar 3, 2014 at 8:29 pm

How do you know if you have H1N1?

Like this comment
Posted by Too bad
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2014 at 10:25 pm

Allen Edwards - I'm sure you're glad that your healthcare is now more affordable to you but in order to make it so, I can't afford insurance anymore so am now uninsured. In short, your healthcare is now being subsidized by people like me who don't qualify for the subsidy but can't afford the higher rates. My insurance premiums more than doubled with ACA and that cost doesn't include any healthcare since the deductible is so high. The burden has simply been shifted to a different group of people and now we have a different group of uninsured people. Obamanomics - trickle down poverty...

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 4, 2014 at 3:45 am

World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) influenza literature gets real complicated real fast. Looks to me like the virus can have 12 types of H-antigen and 9 types of N-antigen, so the combinations go from H1N1 up to H12N9. And that's just influenza-A. There's also B and C which have completely different subclassifications. And they all evolve into different "strains" from year to year so 2009-H1N1 is different from 1918-H1N1 or 2014-H1N1. To illustrate, CDC guidance for the 2013-2014 vaccine contains A/California/7/2009(H1N1), A/Victoria/361/2011(H3N2), B/Massachusetts/2/2012, and B/Brisbane/60/2008. Web Link

I guess the vaccine puts our immune system on the look-out for anything resembling these strains. Does it work? CDC indicates the vaccine's "effectiveness" should be 62% this season. That sounds better than nothing, but doesn't give me a whole lot of confidence.

Like this comment
Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 4, 2014 at 7:22 am

@Yes But, thank you for spreading Faux News propaganda.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 4, 2014 at 11:08 am

Hmmm is a registered user.

Musical - it would help us to know how many of the currently vaccinated got any of the strains they were vaccinated against. Not sure how long we have to wait for that info?

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Posted by Umm
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2014 at 1:13 pm

@Hmmm: I'm guessing you are being sarcastic because it would be impossible to track that data because most people don't visit the doctor when they are sick. I don't know how the CDC came up with the 62% data quoted above except maybe they looked at the popular strains after the vaccine was produced?

@Musical: Nothing in life is 100%, especially medicine. People who fail to be vaccinated are playing Russian roulette with their lives, as this article confirms.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 4, 2014 at 1:43 pm

CDC says 98% of the flu viruses detected so far this season were 2009 H1N1, which maybe is the only strain making people sick enough to get tested, so I wouldn't assume the other strains are absent. They don't say how many of those people were vaccinated, but that must be where they get their 62% effectiveness number. Epidemiology escapes me entirely -- you know what they say about statistics. I can only guess that it means a vaccinated population seeks medical care 62% less than an unvaccinated population of the same size and same exposure to the virus. Effectiveness seems to be defined as not getting sick enough to see a doctor, which apparently does not preclude milder cases sick enough to spread the virus among one's co-workers or classmates. Then there's the "confidence interval" which must be a medical term for "your mileage may vary."

To me the article only confirms that flu must be taken seriously. It says this patient also had the flu during the 2012-13 season. That should have conferred better immunity than any vaccine, so it's unclear to me whether vaccination would have changed the outcome. There were additional health problems in this situation, and I extend my condolences to the family.

Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 4, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

My condolences to Jeffrey Kane's family. I loved his photo from the 70s; just from that you could tell he was special. His sister's words were so moving. Very, very sad.

Like this comment
Posted by GhostOfSwineFluPast
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 5, 2014 at 10:08 pm

[Post removed.]

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Posted by Shades of 1918
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 6, 2014 at 2:39 pm

A person CAN get swine flu twice--provided the first case was a relatively mild one. Unless it was all-out misery, it was not a severe enough case to impart lifetime immunity. This happened to thousands of people in 1918-1919 who were sickened mildly the first time around, and struck dead the second time the Spanish Flu came around.

The sine flu has become almost completely resistant to Tamiflu, as well.

Like this comment
Posted by Social Butterfly
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 9, 2014 at 5:18 am

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Cimarron
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 12, 2014 at 9:32 pm

The Daily Post reported that Mr. Kane died of H1N1 or "Swine" flu and that this seasons vaccine does not include that strain. Based on that info., even if he had been vaccinated, it would not have given him protection from what he died of.

Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2014 at 9:41 pm

Marie is a registered user.

I don't know why the Daily Post says that the vaccine does not include H1N1. Everything I've read said that it does. I would hope the newspapers would factcheck these statements and update them with correct information.

Like this comment
Posted by My Take
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2014 at 9:15 am

Well I had the vaccination at the hospital and it included H1N1. My child had it at a pharmacy and it included H1N1. Both were covered by our insurance, which has been not only more affordable, but also has better coverage since Obamacare went into effect. And no, we have not had any flu this season at all.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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