1st H1N1-related death in state is county woman

A 22-year-old Hillsborough County woman has become the state’s first H1N1-related death, according to state health officials.

Dr. Jose Montero, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services’ Public Health Division, said the agency would not release exactly where the woman lived because, in terms of a public health response, it does not matter.
The woman died Monday, he said.

The woman also had underlying health issues that may have contributed to her death, Montero said. Considering her overall health, and the fact that the flu kills 36,000 in the United States every year, it is not surprising New Hampshire has its first H1N1 death, he said. “It is fully expected,” Montero said. “We know the flu kills people. Having someone die of H1N1 is expected, (it) is normal with the disease.”

“This sad news unfortunately highlights the fact the H1N1 never went away and that we still need to take precautions to prevent becoming ill and passing the virus, and other illnesses, to other people,” Montero added.

More deaths are inevitable, he said, especially for people with other risk factors such as weakened immune systems. “We do expect to have more severe cases as the disease progresses. That is why we are emphasizing so much prevention,” Montero said. “Certainly the vaccine will help, but right now we don’t have it.”

Federal health authorities are working on an H1N1 vaccine. The first groups to get the vaccine will be people ages 6 months to 24 years old, health-care and EMS workers, pregnant women, people who are in contact with children younger than 6 months, and people 25-64 years old who have other health conditions that put them at greater risk, according to DHHS.

Montero said when the clinical trials on the vaccine are complete, health officials will have an idea of how much of the vaccine will be available and when it will be distributed.

H1N1, also known as swine flu, has caused 477 deaths and 7,511 hospitalizations across the country since it was first recognized in April. The virus has spread to 168 countries, according to DHHS.

People should always remember to cover their noses and mouths when they cough or sneeze, to wash their hands with soap and water often and to stay home from work or school if they become sick, according to DHHS.

For more information on H1N1, visit the DHHS Web site at www.dhhs.nh.gov or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at www.flu.gov.