Tulsa teen victim of swine flu
BY KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
10/07/09 at 3:51 AM
the swine flu,
State health officials confirmed Tuesday that Tulsa teenager LaTowyn Gaston died from the swine flu.
The East Central High School sophomore died Thursday, a day after he turned 16 years old.
It was determined early that he died from influenza A, but further tests had to be performed to see if it was the novel H1N1 virus, or swine flu, which is a form of influenza A, health officials said.
Gaston's aunt, Deneeco Young, told the Tulsa World last week that LaTowyn began to feel sick last Wednesday morning. He died at St. Francis Hospital on Thursday night.
"He just got so dehydrated the flu just overtook him," she said.
Young said the boy didn't have asthma or any other underlying medical condition. Most people who have died from the swine flu have had an underlying medical condition, such as asthma or diabetes.
Generally, the swine flu is a mild illness for the majority of people. But people with underlying conditions are more susceptible to complications or death.
Seasonal flu can also be deadly. It kills around 36,000 Americans each year.
"The first concern that we hear is, oh, flu is just a mild illness," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a teleconference Tuesday.
"Actually, on average, flu is not a mild illness. It can make you pretty sick, knock you out for a day or two or three. Make you miss school and work. And for too many people, end up sending them to the hospital, to the intensive care unit and tragically, some people may die from it. In fact, this year already, we have seen quite a few children who have died from flu," he said.
Gaston's death is the fourth in Oklahoma from swine flu since it emerged in April, and the second of a person under 18 years old. A Cleveland County teenage girl was the first Oklahoman under age 18 to die from the new virus. She died last month.
Swine flu continues to be the dominant influenza strain circulating throughout the country, federal officials said.
"So, although it is not a disease that will send lots of people who get it to the hospital, it can be very serious. And even for those for whom it's an average case, it's no picnic," Frieden said.
Meanwhile, the Tulsa Health Department and Hillcrest Medical Center launched the sixth year of the popular "Don't Bug Me" flu prevention campaign.
With the emergence of H1N1, the campaign is more critical than ever, said Reggie Ivey, interim director of the Tulsa Health Department.
"The message remains the same. It works," he said.
The campaign simply urges people to wash their hands frequently with soap and water and to cough or sneeze into a tissue to keep the flu bug away.
H1N1 vaccine arrives in state
The first shipments of the
swine flu vaccine arrived in
oklahoma on monday, with
the Tulsa Health Department
getting 3,400 doses of
Flumist, said spokeswoman
Those are among 21,100
doses arriving for medical
providers throughout the state.
All initial doses are in the form
of Flumist or intranasal spray.
only healthy people ages 2
to 49 are recommended to
receive this form of vaccine.
Tulsa’s Health Department
has already sent most
of its initial allotment to area
hospitals to vaccinate doctors,
nurses and other health workers
who deal with vulnerable
patients. The remainder will
go to Limestone Elementary in
Sand Springs, which has been
plagued with a higher-thanusual
absentee rate, Christian
Injectable doses of the vaccine
will be shipped next week,
CDC Director Thomas Frieden
“Influenza is a tough enemy.
It’s unpredictable,” he said.
“Vaccine is the best tool to
protect the flu because not
only does it prevent people
from becoming severely ill, it
also prevents the spread of
He reiterated vaccine manufacturers
“cut no corners” in
producing the H1N1 vaccine.
“This flu vaccine is made as
flu vaccine is made each year.
By the same companies. In
the same production facilities.
With the same procedures.
With the same safeguards. We
have had literally hundreds of
millions of people vaccinated
against flu with flu vaccine
made in this way,” Frieden said.
“That enables us to have a high
degree of confidence in the
safety of the vaccine.
Kim Archer 581-8315
Steve Dobbs of Hillcrest Medical Center shows students at Springdale Elementary School how to sneeze properly during a Tuesday press conference launching the annual flu prevention campaign called Don't Bug Me. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World