King County Resident Dies From H1N1 Influenza

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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A Seattle resident who had multiple underlying health conditions died on June 11 from complications of H1N1 influenza (swine flu), the first reported H1N1 death in King County. The decedent was in his 70s and had been hospitalized at the time of death. Tests from the state lab confirmed H1N1 virus today.

"This death is a tragic development, and our hearts go out to the family," said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health - Seattle & King County. "H1N1 flu can have very serious consequences, and we continue to closely monitor the disease. Since we are seeing a declining number of new, serious infections, we are now intensively planning and preparing for the anticipated return of the virus in the fall."

Forty-seven people have been hospitalized and 524 people have been confirmed with H1N1 influenza in King County. At this point Public Health's surveillance is focusing exclusively on hospitalized patients, and the number of reported cases reflects a small proportion of all cases.

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H1N1 virus has caused a disproportionate number of cases and hospitalizations in younger people, with 57% of the cases nationally among people aged 5-25 years of age. Forty-one percent of the hospitalizations are also among this age group.

Last week, the WHO (World Health Organization) declared H1N1 as a pandemic, meaning that H1N1 has spread widely around the world. The declaration is based on geographic spread of the influenza virus, not on the severity of the illness. The severity of the H1N1 virus has not changed here in King County or anywhere around the world.

Now is the time to prepare for the possible return of H1N1 virus in the fall. Thus far H1N1 influenza has not been more severe than the typical seasonal flu, but since it is a novel virus, many people do not have immunity to it.

Public Health is collaborating with health care, schools and other community partners to be ready. Individuals and families can plan now for possible school closures in the fall or winter and absences from work. Businesses and organizations can use the summer months to prepare for a reduced work force if many become ill or need to stay at home.

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