Native Medical Center patient death not from flu

ANCHORAGE — Tests conducted at an Alaska state lab show that a patient who died this week at the Alaska Native Medical Center did not have the flu although an earlier hospital test had indicated type A influenza.

The confirmatory test on samples from the young adult “came back as negative for influenza,” state Department of Health and Social Services spokesman Greg Wilkinson said late Thursday.

The tests conducted at the Alaska State Virology Lab in Fairbanks would be considered more definitive than the hospital test, Wilkinson said.

The cause of death was not determined, he said.

Patients with the flu have been admitted to the Alaska Native Medical Center in the past week and some are seriously ill, the spokesman said.

No flu deaths have been confirmed this season in Alaska, state officials said, but there have been reports of nonfatal cases.

All but two of 13 flu cases confirmed by the state virology lab this season were the swine flu strain, or H1N1, said Michael Cooper, the infectious diseases program manager for the state section of epidemiology. H1N1 is a type A flu, Cooper said.

Altogether, there have been reports of 22 cases of influenza, with 18 of them in Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley region. The larger number reflects both lab-confirmed cases and those that only have results for initial testing done by providers.

Those numbers are relatively low, according to Cooper.

“That does not represent how much flu is out there,” he said.

Jay Butler, director of community health services at the Alaska Native Medical Center, said the young adult who died Tuesday after being admitted to the hospital was “quite ill.” Butler said he can’t release personal information about the patient because of confidentiality rules.

H1N1 caused the 2009 swine flu pandemic and has been circulating since. At least 13 Alaskans have died from swine flu, with the last known death in February 2010.

Health officials said this year’s flu vaccine protects against the H1N1 strain. So far, H1N1 appears to be one of the predominant strains being seen, but it’s too early to say if it will remain so, Cooper said.


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