For Immediate Release
October 16, 2009

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

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

The death of a 48 year-old woman from southwest Kansas has been confirmed as the eighth in the state due to the pandemic H1N1 flu virus by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE).  Laboratory testing confirmed yesterday that the woman, who had underlying health conditions that put her at greater risk for serious complications, had the H1N1 virus. Her death was reported to KDHE today.

KDHE Secretary Roderick Bremby and Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, Kansas State Health Officer, expressed sympathy and offered their deepest condolences to the woman’s family.

“This death shows how important it is for all of us do what we can to protect ourselves and our families against H1N1 flu, and to reduce the risk of spreading this virus,” Dr. Eberhart-Phillips said. “More vaccine will soon begin arriving in Kansas each week, and we hope that everyone who is able will choose to get vaccinated as larger amounts of it become available.”

The national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended that certain people who are at greater risk from H1N1 flu receive the vaccine earlier than others, as the amount of H1N1 vaccine is currently very limited.  Those who should receive the vaccine first include pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age, healthcare and emergency medical services personnel, persons 6 months through 24 years of age, and people ages of 25 through 64 years of age who are at higher risk for H1N1 flu because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

The pandemic H1N1 virus is causing widespread illness throughout Kansas and the United States. Visits to healthcare providers for influenza-like illness have been increasing in most regions of Kansas as well as throughout the United States over the past few weeks and are substantially higher 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.  Most people who have been ill with pandemic H1N1 influenza have recovered without medical treatment.

However, some people develop serious complications that require hospitalization or may lead to death.  Although serious complications are more likely among persons with certain underlying chronic health conditions, this pandemic influenza virus has caused serious complications and deaths among persons without such factors.  Unlike typical seasonal influenza, the 2009 H1N1 virus is causing a greater disease burden among adolescents and young adults.  Severe illness from H1N1 virus infection can even occur among relatively young, healthy persons.

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.

The H1N1 vaccine is starting to arrive in Kansas, but at this time in very limited quantities.  Until people are able to be vaccinated against the virus, individuals are encouraged to take the following steps to reduce its 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 or major metropolitan area 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.