First swine flue death reported in Tulare County
A highly infectious, yet rare strain of the flu is sweeping through the country and has claimed its first victim in Tulare County.
On Jan. 16, the Tulare County Department of Public Health confirmed that a Tulare County woman died from an H1N1 influenza-related infection.
“It is with great regret that I am informing the community of this death from influenza,” stated Dr. Karen Haught, Tulare County Health Officer. “Unfortunately, we are reminded that the effects from this illness can be very serious.”
H1N1 influenza A, commonly known as “swine flu,” is a pandemic influenza strain first reported in April 2009. According to the Center for Disease Control, the swine flu gets its name because the strain showed various similarities to the influenza strain afflicting pigs. Between 5 and 20% of the population gets the flu with about 200,000 people being hospitalized each year, according to the Center for Disease Control. The number of flu-associated deaths in the United States is about from 36,000 people each year.
There are much fewer cases of people in the U.S. dying from the H1N1 virus because it’s much rarer than the seasonal flu. In fact, its rarity is what makes the disease so deadly. Because most people have not been exposed to the H1N1 virus it spreads much faster than the seasonal flu. The CDC also reports people under the age of 25 are more likely to be affected by the strain than the common flu. But even though it is a rare strain of the flu, that doesn’t make it easier to identify. Symptoms of H1N1 are nearly identical to the seasonal flu.
The woman had not been vaccinated for this flu season, as each season has a different vaccination for the strains estimated to be the most prevalent. While her age was not released, the woman was younger than 65 years old because flu deaths are not tracked or reported for people 65 and over. It is especially important for high-risk groups to be vaccinated. These groups include:
-Any person with a chronic medical condition that requires frequent medical attention (Examples include asthma, diabetes, chronic lung disease, and chronic liver disease; there are many others)
-Any person who will have contact with an infant less than 6 months of age or with someone who has a chronic disease during the influenza season
-Children under the age of five
Tulare County residents are urged to get flu vaccinations, as the H1N1 strain—the pandemic influenza strain—has been detected and is covered by the vaccination. Vaccination is the best protection against the flu and helps prevent the spread of the flu virus from person to person.
Vaccination is recommended for everyone over the age of six months, and the vaccination is available at physicians’ offices and local clinics, at many local pharmacies, or through the Health & Human Services Agency (HHSA) immunization program. HHSA immunization program staff can be reached at 685-5725. At this time, the vaccine is widely available in the community. Additional information can be found at www.flu.gov.
Good preventive health habits include:
-Stay home if you are ill
-Wash your hands with soap and hot water
-Cover your coughs and sneezes
-Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
The Tulare County woman was the ninth Valley resident to die from the H1N1 virus this year, including three in Merced County, one in Fresno County and three in Kings County. The virus spread quickly in the Fresno County Jail affecting at least four inmates. On Jan. 13, a 61-year-old inmate died while being treated for the flu at Community Regional Medical Center. The spread of the disease and the ensuing isolation of those with flu-like symptoms, prompted the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department to take precautionary measures.
On Jan. 17, Sheriff Mike Boudreaux temporarily suspended visiting to all of the Tulare County Jails. In a released statement, Boudreaux said the action will help minimize the possible exposure of the flu virus to the inmate population, their families, jail staff, volunteers and the public.
Detention staff are communicating with the inmate population in regards to how this is a proactive, protective measure for the inmate population, their families, jail staff, volunteers and the public. The Sheriff’s Department is working with the inmates to help provide communication to their family members to prevent them from unnecessary trips to the facilities and to make sure their families have a point of contact to verify whether or not visiting has resumed. The Department has set up phone numbers that will provide a voice message regarding the status of visiting at the detention facilities. For English call 559-636-4652 and for Spanish call 559-735-1845.
Currently there are approximately 1650 inmates housed in Tulare County Jails. This does not include the number of inmates that are currently participating in the Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program, Day Reporting Center and Weekender Program. These programs will continue to operate as usual, with a daily screening regarding health issues before they are allowed to continue their work program. The Sheriff’s Department will update its news feed as more information is available. Visit our web page at www.tularesheriff.info/news.php
For the expanded monthly flu clinic schedule, please check www.tchhsa.org under the “Spotlight” section and the TulareCountyHHSA Facebook social media page. Residents with questions should contact their health care provider.