Oklahoma Records Third H1N1 Influenza Virus Death

Thursday, September 24th 2009, 1:54 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- A third death in Oklahoma from swine flu has been reported. This one was the first in a patient under 18 years old, near Oklahoma City in Cleveland County.

The three deaths are since the start of the year, and doctors say this latest case is not a sign the virus itself is worse - just that it's beginning to spread.

Dr. Todd Hoffman with St John Urgent Care says about 1 of every 12 patients coming in has flu like symptoms - but not all have it - because other viruses are going around.

"So yes, we have seen those patients, but not as many as I suspected we would, at this point," Dr. Hoffman said.

He says his patients with swine flu have had mild cases.

"Most do fine at home just with Motrin and Tylenol, fluids, making sure they're doing good hand hygiene, covering their cough with their elbow and now their hands, and I think we'll get through this pretty well," Dr. Hoffman said.

The state's epidemiologist says all three of Oklahoma's swine flu deaths were in people with chronic health problems.

"As with the two previous deaths we've identified that have been associated with the H1N1 flu, this person had significant underlying medical conditions which would place this person at increased risk of complications from the flu," said Dr. Kristy Bradley, Oklahoma State Epidemiologist.

Dr. Hoffman says since children with chronic illness are most at risk from H1N1, their parents need to exercise extra care.

"Those are the folks, if their child has asthma, and they have a fever and they're coughing more, and kind of feeling bad with sore throat, they definitely need to get in and get checked," said Dr. Todd Hoffman, St. John Urgent Care.

"We are very sad to learn of this young person's death," said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. "The loss of a child is always tragic, and we extend our sympathies to the family."

Last year in Oklahoma, two children died from seasonal influenza.

Beginning at the first of this month, the OSDH initiated a new influenza surveillance system designed to monitor reports of all influenza-associated hospitalizations and deaths occurring in Oklahoma to determine the severity of the disease, monitor trends, and further evaluate risk factors for the H1N1 flu virus.

In the past week, 40 new hospitalizations have been reported to the OSDH, for a total of 67 since this surveillance began.

9/22/2009 Related story: Oklahoma Bracing For A Tough Flu Season

Thirty-nine of the 67 hospitalizations have been patients under 19 years of age.

Most children who acquire H1N1 influenza have mild to moderate illness similar to regular seasonal influenza.

"Parents of children over 6 months of age should have their children vaccinated for both seasonal influenza and H1N1 flu when those vaccines become available in their area," Cline urged. "This is especially important for children with underlying respiratory or neurologic conditions."

Symptoms of influenza include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.

Some persons also report diarrhea and vomiting.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.