The Pinellas County Health Department received confirmation on Monday, Aug. 10, of the first H1N1 (swine) flu death in the county.
The patient was a 36-year-old male who had an underlying health condition. Due to privacy laws, no further information is available.
As of Wednesday, Aug. 5, the total number of H1N1 flu deaths in Florida totaled 41.
The number of H1N1 flu cases is no longer being tracked, according to Andrea Dopico, surveillance program manager with the county’s disease control department.
“We’re no longer reporting numbers of individual cases,” she said. “We know the virus is spreading throughout the community.”
She said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no longer recommended that every patient with H1N1 flu symptoms be tested. She said the focus now was on tracking the number of people hospitalized with life-threatening conditions and deaths.
Any reports of numbers of people suffering from H1N1 flu would probably be a “huge underestimate,” she said.
Most people who get H1N1 flu recover with no problems. However, people with certain underlying conditions are at more at risk for complications. Underlying conditions include asthma; heart disease, excluding hypertension; pregnancy; and those that suppress the auto-immune system such as diabetes and HIV.
Dopico said people who are obese also seemed to be more at risk for complications from H1N1. Experts believe the reason is tied to a reduced lung capacity.
Health department officials are working with county schools in preparation for the return to classes. She said school-age children were among the target population for vaccination against the virus.
Officials expect a vaccination to be available in the near future.
She said parents of school-age children should pay close attention to information sent home from the schools. She also recommended using the health department’s Web site as a resource, www.pinellashealth.com. The health department also has an influenza information line that people can call. The number is 727-824-6964.
Dopico said people should continue to take preventative measures, including washing hands often with soap and water; avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth; covering their nose and mouth with a tissue when they cough or sneeze.
Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and maybe diarrhea and vomiting.
People who believe they are infected are urged to stay at home and away from people until at least 24 hours after they are free from fever.
Dopico said she could not reveal where in the county the man who died was from due to privacy laws. She said the location really made no difference.
“H1N1 is all over the county,” she said. “It’s not the location that’s important. It’s the person and whether or not they have underlying medical conditions.”