Carter County man succumbs to swine flu
BY KIM ARCHER and SHANNON MUCHMORE World Staff Writers
Friday, September 18, 2009
9/18/09 at 4:38 AM
Get more information on the swine
flu, including prevention tips,
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A Carter County man has died of the swine flu, and hospitalizations from the novel influenza virus have risen throughout much of Oklahoma, state health officials reported Thursday.
This is the second swine-flu death in the state since the outbreak began in April. Both men who died had underlying medical conditions, officials said.
"This death is a sad reminder that the H1N1 flu virus can be a serious threat," said State Health Commissioner Terry Cline.
The virus, known officially as H1N1 but more commonly called swine flu, is a new type of virus to which most people have no immunity, officials said.
People can't contract it by being around pigs or eating pork. It is spread from human to human through respiratory droplets when people sneeze or cough and by touching surfaces contaminated with germs.
The H1N1 flu is very transmissible, but it's not particularly harmful to most people who get it, said Dr. Stephen Thomas, who works in the Emergency Medicine Department of the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa Community School of Medicine.
"It's hard for it to do a lot of damage to you," he said. "That's the way most flus are."
The school hosted an forum Thursday evening to disseminate the latest information on the flu this year.
Everyone should get a seasonal flu vaccine as soon as possible, and people in specific groups should be immunized for H1N1, Thomas said.
The vaccine should be shipping in four weeks, and reports have shown that it is "incredibly safe," he said.
H1N1 has affected 250,000 people so far and has killed 3,000 people throughout the world, health officials have said. In contrast, seasonal flu usually kills 36,000 people a year in the United States.
According to the health commissioner, 27 people had been hospitalized in Oklahoma with swine flu as of Sept. 12. Nearly half were younger than 18, according to state data. That number is up from seven hospitalizations in the previous week.
Five of those patients were admitted to intensive-care units. One of those five is younger than 18, the data show.
Because swine flu is widespread in the state, health officials no longer track individual cases. Instead, the agency requires reports on the number of hospitalizations and deaths from the virus.
The state's surveillance system has shown that the H1N1 virus is circulating throughout the state.
"It is unusually early in the flu season to be at this high level of activity," Cline said.
Seasonal flu doesn't start in Oklahoma until about November, typically peaking in January or February.
The H1N1 flu has an incubation period of about two days, meaning that a person who is exposed to the virus on a Sunday probably will start feeling symptoms on Tuesday.
Someone who contracts the virus can transmit it from a day before symptoms are noticed until up to a week afterward, Thomas said.
But people who get the flu will not get it again in its current cycle, he said.
People with chronic diseases should be most concerned about getting H1N1 and should be vaccinated.
U.S. health officials announced last week that healthy adults may need only one dose of the swine-flu vaccine, rather than two, as previously thought.
Clinical trials showed that adults developed robust immunity within eight to 10 days with one dose of the vaccine, they said.
"It's really, really good news that it looks like you only need one dose," Thomas said. "That means we can do twice as many people with the same amount of stuff."
There is no expected shortage of the vaccine, he said.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified five groups that should be vaccinated first because of their susceptibility to health complications and death. Those are pregnant women; people ages 6 months to 24 years; caregivers for infants younger than 6 months; people ages 25 to 64 who have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or asthma; and health-care workers and emergency medical responders.
At Thursday's forum, Pam Rask of the Tulsa City-County Health Department said the new vaccine will be distributed systematically.
"It will probably be given to those first-priority groups, and then eventually there should be enough for everybody," she said.
Thomas said healthy people who start having flu symptoms should stay home. They should not visit the doctor unless they see signs of pneumonia, including chest pain and shortness of breath.
"They (doctors) don't want you there," he said. "There are people with leukemia in the waiting room."
Younger people are more likely to get the flu than older people because they are a more mobile population, Thomas said. "The kids are more commonly in situations where they're packed together," he said.
Rask said the Health Department has started providing schools and day-care centers with masks for sick children to wear before they go home.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said last week: "The flu is hitting in many areas, and we're seeing a lot of disease spread as schools and colleges have reopened. Vaccination is an important tool, but it is not the only tool to prevent the spread of the flu."
Symptoms of flu
Source: Oklahoma State Department
- Body aches
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
Seasonal flu shots
The Visiting Nurse Association
of Tulsa is offering
seasonal flu and pneumonia
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Visiting Nurse Association,
7875 E. 51st St.
Cost: Flu shots are $25. Flu
mist $30, and the pneumonia
shot is $55.
Reasor’s Foods clinics
will begin Oct. 5.
The Tulsa Health Department
likely will begin offering
free seasonal flu shots
Oct. 1 at its area clinics.
Kim Archer 581-8315, Shannon Muchmore 581-8378