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Child death confirmed as swine flu case

Fairbanks 10-year-old is first school-aged H1N1 fatality in state

Posted: Monday, September 07, 2009

A 10-year-old Fairbanks child died Friday night from symptoms of H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu.

The boy was the third death of an Alaskan from the swine flu, and the first school-aged death.

A school nurse at Hunter Elementary School in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District sent the child home at about noon on Thursday with flu symptoms, the state Department of Health and Social Services reported Saturday.

The child was admitted to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital overnight then was transported to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

The child died late Friday in Anchorage.

His name was not released.

"The death of any child is particularly tragic, and our sympathies go out to the family," said Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Bill Hogan. "Everyone acted quickly to get this child help. Despite this sad outcome, this shows how important school nurses and others on the front lines are to getting people with flu symptoms the help they need."

An infant with pre-existing medical conditions died Wednesday in Anchorage from complications possibly related to H1N1 flu. State officials are still investigating that case.

A Fairbanks woman with underlying health problems died July 16 in Washington was reported as Alaska's first death.

A vaccine for H1N1 is being developed. It is expected to arrive in Alaska by mid-October.

Initial supplies of the vaccine will be targeted for high priority groups. The state is still determining who that will be, and is holding workshops in local communities to assist them in planning to distribute it when it becomes available.

"Although most people who get H1N1 flu have a mild illness and quick recovery, this death is a sobering reminder that it can be a serious illness," acting Public Health Director Deborah Erickson said. "We all need to pay attention and do what we can to help reduce the spread of the virus."

The state has advised schools take the following precautions related to the flu this fall:

• Students and staff should stay home if they are sick.

• Separate ill students and staff until they can go home.

• Encourage regular hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

• Encourage routine cleaning of hard surfaces that are frequently touched.

• Encourage early treatment of high-risk persons.

Flu symptoms of both regular seasonal flu and H1N1 flu, include fever, cough, sore throat, chills, runny nose, fatigue, body aches, headache and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

Those with flu-like illness should stay home for at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever, without use of fever-reducing medicines and regardless of whether or not they are using anti-viral drugs.

Other everyday actions to take to prevent the spread of viruses:

• Cough or sneeze into your sleeve, or cover your nose and mouth with a tissue. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.

• Stay home if you get sick. The CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

More health information on H1N1 can be found at www.pandemicflu.alaska.gov.



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