For Immediate Release
September 24, 2009

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

KDHE announces two deaths of Kansans infected with the
2009 H1N1 influenza A virus

Two deaths in Kansas of people infected with the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus have been confirmed by state and local public health officials.

One death occurred in a 16-year old child from northeast Kansas.  The child was hospitalized and had underlying health conditions.  The child’s death was reported to KDHE on September 22.  Laboratory testing confirmed the child had the H1N1 virus yesterday evening.

Another death occurred in a 30-year old adult from northeast Kansas.  The adult was also hospitalized and had underlying health conditions.  The adult’s death was reported to KDHE yesterday afternoon and laboratory testing confirmed the adult had the H1N1 virus yesterday evening.

Including those being reported today, there have been four H1N1-related deaths in Kansas.

KDHE Secretary Roderick Bremby and Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, Kansas State Health Officer, expressed sympathy and offered their deepest condolences to the families of the two individuals.

“While the majority of people experience mild illness, these deaths illustrate the risk that those with underlying health conditions have when infected with the H1N1 virus,” Dr. Eberhart-Phillips said.  “It is so critical that people take seriously the potential dangers of this disease and recognize the importance of working towards preventing further spread and receiving the H1N1 vaccine as soon as it becomes available.”

The pandemic H1N1 virus, which is thought to have infected more than 1 million Americans, has been confirmed in 55 counties in Kansas.  Visits to healthcare providers for influenza-like illness, which are tracked by KDHE, have been increasing in certain regions of the state over the past few weeks and are higher nationally than what is typically seen at this time of year.  In most of the state’s cases, where confirmatory testing was done, flu symptoms have been relatively mild. However, hospitalization rates for H1N1 influenza have been similar to seasonal influenza, and are also higher nationally than what is typically seen at this time of year.

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.

KDHE is no longer accepting specimens from everyone who sees a doctor with symptoms.  In non-hospitalized cases, confirmatory testing does not affect treatment and advice given to patients by health care providers.  

Most children and adults with the flu who are generally in good health will recover without needing to visit a health care provider.  Some people may want to call their health care provider for advice on how to care for the flu at home.

Individuals who experience severe illness or who are at high risk of complications from H1N1 influenza infection, including children less than 5 years of age, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and persons with chronic medical conditions (including asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions), should contact their health care provider.

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.

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.

Note to Editors/Reporters:  In order to balance KDHE’s statutory requirements to not personally identify an individual and the need to share important public health information, KDHE is releasing the region of residence, the individual’s age and the presence of any underlying health conditions for pandemic influenza-related deaths.