Swine flu claims first victim in Okanogan County

OKANOGAN – The Okanogan County Health Departmentconfirms the first H1N1 flu-related death in the county occurred in earlierthis month.

“In the interest of the family and in accordancewith federal HIPAA laws we can’t give out information relating to who died orwhat part of the county they lived in,” said David Hilton, with County Health.

The adult victim of the virus apparently had noknown history of chronic medical problems that could have acted as acontributing factor in the death.

Hilton said the actual numbers of those whohave, or have had, H1N1, more commonly known as Swine Flu, are impossible todetermine because the symptoms of H1N1 are very similar to those of theseasonal-flu.

 Hisdepartment continues to monitor the flu activity throughout the county throughthe help of clinics, hospitals, other health care providers and school districtpersonnel. 

From the information Okanogan County HealthDepartment has obtained, there appears to be a slight decrease in flu cases inthe central and northern areas of the county. Reports indicate that whileflu-like illnesses are still widespread throughout the county, schools withinthe county have been reporting absentee rates that are approaching normalranges for this time of year.

“The number of cases of flu have definitelydecreased recently,” said Hilton. “Indicators like absentee rates at schoolsand confirmation by hospitals show a decrease.”

The county health department and the hospitalsare working hand-in-hand to make sure that cases of flu are reported so healthcare workers can get a better picture of the influenza in the county.

“By the end of this week there will have beenabout 3800 doses of the H1N1 vaccine distributed to providers in 16 clinics andthree hospitals, that’s close to about one-tenth of the county’s population,”Hilton said.

Small shipments ofadditional vaccine continue to arrive weekly and are distributed as quickly aspossible to medical providers.”

According to the countyhealth department’s weekly public service update, the department continues toreceive inquiries from residents who want to know why they cannot obtain thevaccine from their providers.

“The priorities for distributionof the H1N1 vaccine remain unchanged. Due to the general shortage of the H1N1vaccine, medical providers throughout the county are following the federalCenter for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines below which prioritize thosepersons that should receive the H1N1 vaccine as soon as possible,” states the update,which is distributed to health care centers and news outlets.

The CDC guidelinesrecommend the vaccine be given to those most at risk first. These include womenwho are pregnant and household contacts and caregivers for children under sixmonths of age. Also in the high-risk category are health care and emergencymedical services personnel because infections among health care workers havebeen reported and this can be a potential source of infection for vulnerablepatients. In addition, increased absenteeism among health care professionalscould reduce health care system capacity. Everyone from ages six-months through24 is also listed due to their proximity at school and day care for the youngerchildren and the fact that this segment of the population has had a higherpercentage of the virus than other segments. Person’s ages 25 through 64-yearswho have health conditions associated with higher risk of medical complicationsfrom influenza are also on the list of those who should be vaccinated.

People can increaseprotection to themselves and others from the flu virus by ensuring they: Washtheir hands often; Cover their cough and stay at home if they are ill

Thosewith questions regarding the flu or who would like more information can contact the OCPHInfluenza Hotline at (509) 422-7393. The hotline is updated weekly. Additionalinformation is available at the Washington State Department of Health’s H1N1 Hotline at 1-888-703-4364. Thereis also a Washington State Department of Health website addressing the H1N1 flu issues at: www.doh.wa.gov.