Oklahoma Has Its First Swine Flu Death

Monday, June 8th 2009, 3:26 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

PONCA CITY, OK -- Oklahoma has its first fatality from the H1N1 virus.  State health officials confirm a 43-year-old man died last week from the virus known as swine flu.  The news came as a surprise to some because many thought the threat of the virus was behind them.

Although Ponca City is a fairly tight-knit community, news of an H1N1 or swine flu death hadn't spread yet.  And, even a local nurse was caught by surprise.

"I knew we had swine flu cases, but I didn't know we had any deaths with it," said Jenette Chambers of Ponca City.

"I was very surprised because I hadn't really heard too much about the H1N1 for several days. So, I thought it had kind of dissipated, so I was very surprised," said Ponca City Mayor Homer Nicholson.

A 43-year-old man from Kay County is the first Oklahoman to die from the H1N1 virus.  City leaders confirm he was a Ponca City resident. 

State health officials will not release his identity or too many details about how he contracted the contagious virus.  But, the victim did go to the doctor with flu-like symptoms, but was not hospitalized.  And, he had some underlying chronic medical conditions, including asthma.

Ponca City has seen a number of H1N1 cases, but they didn't close any schools or shutdown events. They did launch a public relations campaign to encourage folks to take precautions.

"We're kinda hoping that it is an isolated case. We still want to encourage everyone to use all of their sanitation precautions and be extra careful," said Ponca City Mayor Homer Nicholson.

Jenette Chambers and her husband say they have a good reason to do whatever it takes to prevent the virus's spread. And, they want others to heed the warnings.

"They need to get serious and get the flu shot and do what they can do to prevent themselves and their family from getting it," said Shannon Chambers of Ponca City.

Health officials encourage you to wash your hands regularly.  And, if you're sick to stay home from work, school and church.

06/05/2009 Related story: Oklahoma To Close Swine Flu Hotline