For Immediate Release
August 6, 2009

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461

KDHE announces first death of Kansan infected with the 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus

The first death in Kansas of a person infected with the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus has been confirmed by state and local public health officials.

The death occurred in a middle-aged individual, who was identified as a Sedgwick County resident. The individual died from a chronic medical condition, but was also infected with the H1N1 virus.  The illness was confirmed as H1N1 flu at the state public health laboratory on July 30. 

Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, Kansas State Health Officer, expressed sympathy and offered his deepest condolences to the individual’s family.

“We know this new virus is able to cause severe disease and death in a subset of patients, but this first death in our state brings this fact home in a new way,” Dr. Eberhart-Phillips said. “It’s a reminder to all of us in public health that we are dealing with a potentially fatal infection.”

To date more than 350 people in the United States have died from infection with the virus, and more than 5,500 people have been hospitalized.

The pandemic H1N1 virus, which is thought to have infected more than 1 million Americans, has been confirmed in 41 counties in Kansas. In most of the state’s cases, where confirmatory testing was done, flu symptoms have been relatively mild. However, 23 people with confirmed infection have been hospitalized in the state so far because of more severe symptoms.

“This death related to the pandemic H1N1 virus doesn’t mean that the public should panic,” Dr. Eberhart-Phillips said. “The most important message today is that Kansans understand the risks, be alert to the symptoms of flu, and act appropriately to stop the spread of the disease.”

The symptoms of infection with the pandemic H1N1 virus are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu and include fever greater than 100 degrees, body aches, coughing, sore throat, respiratory congestion, and in some cases, diarrhea and vomiting.
 
Individuals who experience the above symptoms should contact their health care provider, who will determine whether testing or treatment is needed. There is no vaccine available yet to protect against the pandemic H1N1 virus, but there are treatments that can shorten the course of illness in severe cases, once the infection is diagnosed.

As with any influenza virus, individuals are encouraged to take the following steps to reduce spread:

KDHE has established a phone number for concerned Kansans to call with questions about the 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus.  The toll-free number is 1-877-427-7317.  Operators will be available to answer questions from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.  Persons calling will be directed to press “1” on their touch-tone phone to be directed to an operator who can answer questions.

Kansans with questions about the virus can email H1N1fluinfo@kdheks.gov.  Information is also available from KDHE at www.kdheks.gov.