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For Release:  September 24, 2009                                                               
Contact: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

H1N1 Flu Contributes to Death of Oklahoma Adolescent

The H1N1 influenza virus (swine flu) led to serious medical complications that has claimed the life of an adolescent from Cleveland County, the Oklahoma State Department of Health announced today. This is the third swine flu death in the state since the outbreak began last spring and the first person under age 18 to succumb to the disease. All of these individuals had underlying medical conditions that put them at high risk of complications from influenza.

“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 Sept. 1, 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. Thirty-nine of the 67 hospitalizations have been patients under 19 years of age.

Cline noted that with the new H1N1 flu circulating in the state, children are going to be exposed to the virus before the vaccine is available, and many may get sick earlier than they might in a normal flu season. Parents and caregivers who work outside the home should plan for how they will take care of sick children at home.
“Schools are screening and sending children home who have fever and respiratory symptoms,” Cline said. “Children with flu-like symptoms should be kept out of school until fever is gone for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-lowering medications.”

Most children who acquire H1N1 influenza have mild to moderate illness similar to regular seasonal influenza. However, parents of children who have chronic neurodevelopmental conditions such as muscular dystrophy, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or other neurodevelopmental delay, or who have chronic pulmonary conditions like asthma, should be extra vigilant in monitoring their children for symptoms of influenza. Recent published medical reports describing the 36 H1N1-associated pediatric deaths that occurred in the United States through Aug. 9, 2009, found that 24 of the 36 deaths occurred among children with at least one high risk medical condition. Early medical intervention will allow prompt treatment with antiviral medications.

“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.”

Until children at high medical risk are vaccinated against flu, parents should consider limiting their child’s potential exposure to influenza by avoiding public places such as malls or theaters and calling ahead when visiting with family and friends to make sure no one has flu-like symptoms.
           
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.
           
Parents should seek immediate medical care for their children if they have trouble breathing; have purple or blue discoloration of the lips; are vomiting and unable to keep liquids down; have signs of dehydration such as dizziness when standing, absence of urination or in infants, a lack of tears when they cry; have seizures; or are less responsive than normal or become confused.
           
For more information about influenza, visit www.health.ok.gov or www.flu.gov, or call your local county health department.

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