For Immediate Release
September 25, 2009

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

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

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

One death occurred in a 39-year old woman from northeast Kansas.  She was hospitalized for influenza symptoms and had underlying health conditions that placed her at higher risk for influenza-related complications.  Laboratory testing confirmed she had the H1N1 virus on September 3 and her death was reported to KDHE yesterday afternoon.

Another death occurred in a 30-year old woman from northeast Kansas.  She was also hospitalized for influenza symptoms and had underlying health conditions that increased her risk of influenza-related complications.  Laboratory testing confirmed she had the H1N1 virus on September 18 and her death was reported to KDHE yesterday afternoon.

KDHE reported two other H1N1-realted deaths yesterday.  Including those being reported in this release, there have been six 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 family of the individual.

“The deaths being reported today make it very clear that this illness can be extremely severe for people with underlying health conditions,” Dr. Eberhart-Phillips said.  “But severe complications and deaths have been reported among patients who have not had any underlying health problems that would have placed them at higher risk.  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, sex, and the presence of any underlying health conditions for pandemic influenza-related deaths.  This new policy is currently under review and may be changed if necessary.