For Immediate Release
January 29, 2010

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

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

A 78 year-old woman from the Wichita metropolitan area* has died from infection with the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) announced today. This death brings the total number of confirmed deaths from the pandemic strain statewide to 27.

The woman’s infection was confirmed in the KDHE laboratory, and her death reported to KDHE, on January 28. The woman had underlying health conditions that placed her at greater risk for severe complications of influenza.

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

“Although the 2009 H1N1 flu virus has been less active lately, it is still circulating and remains a threat,” said Dr. Eberhart-Phillips. “Flu activity normally peaks in February or March in Kansas, and it is possible that a similar pattern will occur this year with H1N1.”

The pandemic H1N1 influenza vaccine is being distributed to public health departments, health care providers and retail pharmacies across the state. Up-to-date information on H1N1 vaccination clinics being held across the state can be found by going to www.kdheks.gov and clicking on “Where can I receive the H1N1vaccine?”

It is important to note that the number of deaths confirmed to be caused by pandemic H1N1 influenza under-represents the true number of deaths. The great majority of all influenza or pneumonia-related deaths that occur (pneumonia is the most common severe complication of influenza) do not have a confirmatory lab result associated with them.  For more information on mortality due to influenza-like illness in Kansas, please review KDHE’s Epidemiology and Surveillance Weekly Status Report available at http://www.kdheks.gov/H1N1/H1N1_Epi_Reports.htm.

The symptoms of infection with the pandemic H1N1 virus are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu and include fever of 100 degrees or greater, 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.

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. When planning to visit hospitalized patients, people should first call the health care facility to ask about any restrictions on visitation.  Some hospitals and other health care facilities have put additional restrictions in place to reduce the risk of spreading the 2009 H1N1 virus.

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.

In addition to vaccination, 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:  The geographic area stated in this release is defined as follows:

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.