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Pierce County Reports Fifth H1N1 (swine flu) Influenza-Related Death

October 20, 2009

TACOMA, WA An elderly resident of Pierce County who died on October 17, 2009 from complications linked to H1N1 (swine flu) was confirmed late yesterday. The male was in his early seventies. Tests have shown his death was due in part to the H1N1 virus. He also experienced other underlying health conditions which complicated the course of the illness. This death is the fifth H1N1 influenza-related death in the county.

"It is sad to learn of another person who has died from the flu," said David Harrowe, MD, Lead Communicable Disease Investigator at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. "His death, however, may prevent others if people will take actions to prevent the spread of both seasonal flu and H1N1, or seek help if their conditions worsen."

Both seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccine have arrived in Pierce County. Most has gone to medical provider offices and to pharmacies. Anyone over the age of 6 months can get a seasonal flu vaccine.

H1N1 vaccine is currently limited to priority groups, including:

  • Pregnant women
  • Household contacts and care givers for children younger than 6 months of age
  • Health care and emergency medical services personnel who provide direct patient care
  • All people 6 months to 24 years of age
  • People 25 to 64 years of age who have underlying health conditions associated with higher risk of medical complications from flu.

Once the priority groups have been given the opportunity to obtain flu vaccine, the rest of the population will be encouraged to get protection.

Symptoms for H1N1 include fever/chills AND cough or sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, body aches, and tiredness. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea have also been reported in some cases. Although most cases of influenza can be safely managed at home, anyone who has an underlying health condition who develops symptoms of the flu should contact their healthcare provider.

If someone becomes ill and experiences any of the following warning signs, they should seek emergency medical care.

  • 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 a worse cough

Important prevention measures include:

  • Cover your nose and mouth when you are coughing or sneezing
  • Wash your hands often
  • Stay home and away from people when you are ill (until 24 hours after your fever breaks without medication)
  • Keep yourself healthy by exercising, eating balanced meals, and keeping sufficient sleep

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department's website (www.tpchd.orgH1N1) contains information on H1N1 influenza and when flu vaccine clinics are scheduled, details will be posted there.

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