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Fulton County death linked to swine flu

November 20, 2009
By MICHAEL ANICH, The Leader-Herald

JOHNSTOWN - Fulton County public health officials reported the county's first swine flu-related death Thursday.

Announcement of the recent death followed laboratory testing that confirmed the deceased had swine flu, county Public Health Director Denise Frederick said in a news release issued Thursday.

Frederick said the death involved an adult in Fulton County with an underlying medical condition. She said it is the first death linked to swine flu, more formally known as H1N1, since the initial flu outbreak in April. To protect the privacy of the family, no further medical information about the unnamed person will be released, she said.

"Every death is a tragedy and our sincere condolences are extended to the family at this difficult time," Frederick stated in the release.

No swine flu-related deaths have been reported in Montgomery and Hamilton counties. The Center for Disease Control reported there have been more than 4,000 swine flu-related deaths nationwide and that "millions" of Americans have been infected with the virus.

Frederick said the death in Fulton County doesn't mean that swine flu has suddenly become a more serious issue.

"Most people with the flu continue to have mild to moderate symptoms and recover at home without medical treatment," she said. "Sadly, as with ordinary seasonal flu, the H1N1 flu can and occasionally does cause serious illness and death."

Reached this morning at the county public health office, Frederick said the county doesn't have an exact count on how many people have contracted swine flu in the county.

She said phone calls into her agency on Route 29 have been "steady" regarding swine flu, but she didn't necessarily expect more concern now that a death has been reported.

For confidentiality of the family, she said she couldn't release the gender or municipality of the person who died. She also couldn't release the date of the death, she said.

She said her agency has at least 300 doses of the swine flu vaccine mist to dispense to patients at an upcoming clinic.

Swine flu activity is widespread in New York state and across the United States, and vaccine provides the best protection against the flu, Frederick said.

Frederick said people should check with their health care provider regarding the availability of both the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines.

Fulton County Public Health has scheduled an H1N1 vaccination clinic on Tuesday from noon to 6 p.m. at the Public Health Office for 2- to 24-year-olds without underlying conditions. FluMist vaccine will be provided at no cost. Children younger than 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Appointments are required and can be made by calling 736-5724.

The county Board of Supervisors approved a contract between Public Health and Nathan Littauer Hospital on Nov. 9 that will allow people to receive H1N1 vaccines for free. She said the Public Health Department pays the hospital $15 per vaccine to administer a grant

Sue Kiernan, the vice president of development at Nathan Littauer Hospital, said today the hospital is trying to work out a Dec. 3 swine flu clinic at the hospital.

"We have not worked out all of the details," she said. "People should be vigilant about getting the vaccine."

Montgomery County Community Health Educator Debbie Voght said her department will hold clinics at St. Mary's Family Health Centers in Amsterdam and Canajoharie on Saturday. She said county Public Health has enough of the vaccine to last for those clinics, and will use additional vaccine for future clinics once it receives it.

It is up to the state to send the vaccine, and Voght said the department is at its mercy in terms of getting more. She said she hopes private medical providers will be able to administer the vaccine to their patients once more is available.



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