Health and Family Services Cabinet
DPH Reports Two Additional 2009 H1N1-Related Deaths
Urges Basic Hygiene to Help Prevent Flu Spread
(Oct. 5, 2009) FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH), the Pennyrile District Health Department and the Christian County Health Department announced today that the state is reporting two additional deaths related to 2009 H1N1 influenza (swine flu). The deaths involved a Caldwell County teenager with no known health issues and a Christian County woman in her late 20s who had underlying health issues.
“Influenza always has the potential to cause serious illness or complications that can result in hospitalization, and even death. It is a tragedy when we lose Kentuckians to any illness, especially children and young adults," said William Hacker, M.D., commissioner of DPH. "Kentucky continues to experience widespread flu activity at the moment, and is working with federal, state and local partners in the public and private sectors to prepare for the 2009 H1N1 vaccination campaign. Flu vaccine is one of the most effective tools we have against influenza and we hope to begin immunizing Kentuckians in the weeks ahead."
Although more than 1,300 deaths associated with H1N1 influenza have been reported nationwide, the severity of H1N1 influenza illness appears comparable to seasonal influenza, which is responsible for about 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The state reported its first swine flu-associated death in early September, involving a Fayette County woman in her 50s who had underlying health conditions. The state's second H1N1-associated death was reported last week, and involved a Jefferson County woman in her 40s with no known health issues.
Limited quantities of the swine flu vaccine will become available this week, with an increase in supply anticipated toward the end of the month and into November. The earliest shipments will be of the nasal spray vaccine, which can be taken by healthy individuals ages 2-49, with H1N1 flu shot vaccine following in larger quantities. Health officials are recommending that individuals under 65 who are at higher risk for complications of the flu—such as pregnant women, health care workers, caretakers of children younger than six months and those with chronic illnesses—be among the target groups to receive vaccine first. Health care providers interested in providing H1N1 vaccine should contact their local health department as soon as possible. Seasonal flu vaccine is already available in many locations, and health officials are encouraging individuals, including those over 65, not to delay receiving their annual flu shot.
"Although we are continuing to see an increased number of cases of the flu, to date the illness H1N1 causes is comparable to seasonal flu and will usually not require the closure of schools for public health reasons," said Dr. Hacker.
The symptoms of both seasonal and H1N1 influenza include fever, chills, headache, sore throat, cough, body aches, and may include vomiting or diarrhea. Individuals at higher risk for complications—such as those with chronic health conditions or who are pregnant—should contact a health care provider early, in case treatment with antiviral medication is necessary.
Common sense precautions to prevent illness include: avoiding close contact with those who are ill; staying home when sick; covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing; avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth; and frequent hand washing.
Individuals can visit http://healthalerts.ky.gov for information on H1N1 and Kentucky, or follow KYHealthAlerts on Twitter. Kentucky's toll-free influenza hotline number is 1(877)843-7727, and operates from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.