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Metro Newsroom

Health Officials Respond to H1N1 Flu Death

Friday October 2, 2009

The Kentucky Public Health laboratory has confirmed that the death of a 41 year old female on September 21 in Louisville was caused by lung disease related to the H1N1 virus.

There were no apparent underlying medical conditions in the patient. This is Louisville’s first death from H1N1.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family,” said Metro Public Health and Wellness director Dr. Adewale Troutman. “This case is unusual and an outlier. I want to emphasize that in the vast majority of H1N1 cases - in Louisville, in Kentucky and in the United States - people have recovered and have not had to seek medical treatment. There is no evidence of an increase in the virulence of the H1N1 virus. In the vast majority of cases, the H1N1 virus has proven to be no more virulent that regular season flu. Having said that, we must also acknowledge that influenza virus, both seasonal flu virus and the H1N1 virus can have serious consequences. Every year 36,000 people in America die from regular seasonal flu,” said Dr. Troutman.

There was also a death in a Fayette County female in her 50s earlier this year who had significant underlying medical conditions. The Kentucky Department for Public Health is also investigating the case of a teen from Caldwell County whose death may have been H1N1 related.

“Influenza always has the potential to cause serious illness or complications that can result in hospitalization, and even death. It is a tragedy when we lose a Kentuckian to any illness," said William Hacker, M.D., commissioner of DPH. "Kentucky continues to experience widespread flu activity at the moment, and is working with federal, state and local partners in the public and private sectors to provide seasonal flu vaccinations and to prepare for the 2009 H1N1 vaccination campaign. Flu vaccine is one of the most effective tools we have against influenza and we hope to begin immunizing Kentuckians against H1N1 in October."

Next week the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness will be getting its first allocation of 4,000 doses of nasal flu mist H1N1 vaccine. These doses will be distributed to healthcare workers in area hospitals. Hospital healthcare workers are among the first line if defense against H1N1 virus and need to remain healthy to be able to treat seriously ill people.

The department expects to receive more vaccine each week. Initially, it will be distributing this vaccine to those whom the CDC has prioritized as being most at risk from H1N1. These include the following:

· pregnant women

· people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age

· health care and emergency medical services personnel

· children 6 months through 4 years of age

· children 5 through 18 years of age who have chronic medical conditions

The Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness will distribute vaccine to children through public and parochial schools, probably in November. This vaccination program will be voluntary and each child will need a permission slip signed by a parent or guardian. The shots will be free.

“I ask people in our community who get ill with relatively mild flu disease not to overrun area hospitals and health care providers as a reaction to this death,” said Dr. Troutman. “The CDC provides the following guidelines for when you should seek medical treatment:

In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

· Fast breathing or trouble breathing

· Bluish or gray skin color

· Not drinking enough fluids

· Severe or persistent vomiting

· Not waking up or not interacting

· Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held

· Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

· Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

· Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

· Sudden dizziness

· Confusion

· Severe or persistent vomiting

· Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough