Archive for June, 2009

First H1N1 related death reported

The first death attributed to the H1N1 novel influenza virus has been recorded in Minnesota.

A Twin Cities area child with underlying health conditions died late last week after a brief hospitalization. Laboratory tests subsequently determined that the child had the H1N1 novel influenza.

According to State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield, in most cases, the H1N1 flu is causing mild illness; however, she said it can still be very serious, especially for people with underlying health conditions.

“This flu is very widespread, and we expect to see many more cases across the state,” Dr. Lynfield said. “That’s why we continue to urge people to take simple precautions to prevent getting it or spreading it.”

To date, MDH officials have confirmed 274 cases of the novel virus in Minnesota, including this case. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 45 deaths from the virus across the country. There still have been no confirmed cases of H1N1 novel influenza A in Northfield, but officials at Northfield Hospital & Clinics are actively monitoring the situation and taking standard precautions to deal with an outbreak should one occur.

Standard prevention recommendations for influenza include:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with your sleeve when you cough or sneeze.
  • Clean your hands frequently and thoroughly – with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub solution.
  • Clean your hands after shaking hands or having other close contact with other people – before eating or preparing food, or touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Limit your contact with others who may be ill.
  • Stay home from work or school – and generally avoid going out in public – if you are sick, remain home for seven days, or until 24 hours after your symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.
  • Make sure to take enough fluids while you’re sick.
  • If you are an employer, encourage your employees to stay home if they are sick.
  • If you do develop possible flu symptoms and you want to consult your health care provider, call before going in for an office visit. You may not need to go in, and if you do need to be seen, a time should be set up when you will not risk exposing others to influenza in the waiting room.
  • People at risk for severe flu or flu complications should contact their health care provider if they have flu symptoms or have been exposed to people with flu symptoms. Those individuals include people with an underlying medical condition, pregnant women, young children (especially under age two) and people 65 or older.

For more information about novel influenza, please visit the MDH Web site at www.health.state.mn.us or contact your health care provider.

WHO declares H1N1 pandemic

In response to the ongoing spread of the novel influenza A virus (H1N1), the World Health Organization (WHO) Thursday declared the outbreak a global pandemic. The designation reflects the geographic spread of the virus, not the severity of its illness, health officials said.

Seventy-four countries are now reporting some 28,000 cases of human infection with novel H1N1 flu and 144 associated deaths. In the United States, there have been 13,000 confirmed cases and 27 related deaths. These numbers have been steadily increasing worldwide over the past few weeks.

According to WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan, no previous pandemic has been detected so early or watched so closely

“The world can now reap the benefits of investments, over the last five years, in pandemic preparedness,” she said in Thursday’s prepared announcement.

In the early going, Dr. Chan predicted the pandemic will be of moderate severity, however she cautioned that countries should prepare to see cases, or the further spread of cases, in the near future. Countries where outbreaks appear to have peaked should prepare for a second wave of infection.

There still have been no confirmed cases of H1N1 novel influenza A in Northfield, but officials at Northfield Hospital & Clinics are actively monitoring the situation and taking standard precautions to deal with an outbreak should one occur.

People are advised to follow standard recommendations for preventing the spread of the flu virus – if you are sick.:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with your sleeve when you cough or sneeze.
  • Clean your hands frequently and thoroughly – with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub solution.
  • Limit your contact with others who may be ill.
  • Clean your hands after shaking hands or having other close contact with other people – before eating or preparing food, or touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Stay home from work or school – and generally avoid going out in public.
  • If you are an employer, encourage your employees to stay home if they are sick.

According to WHO, the novel H1N1 virus preferentially infects younger people. In nearly all areas with large and sustained outbreaks, the majority of cases have occurred in people under the age of 25 years. In some of these countries, around 2 percent of cases have developed severe illness, often with very rapid progression to life-threatening pneumonia.

Most cases of severe and fatal infections have been in adults between the ages of 30 and 50 years. This pattern is significantly different from that seen during epidemics of seasonal influenza, when most deaths occur in frail elderly people.

Officials say many, though not all, severe cases have occurred in people with underlying chronic conditions. Based on limited, preliminary data, conditions most frequently seen include respiratory diseases, notably asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and obesity.

At the same time, officials note that around one-third to half of the severe and fatal infections are occurring in previously healthy young and middle-aged people. Pregnant women are at increased risk of complications.

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