Health secretary says swine flu death is a reminder of the complications that can come with influenza.
The first Pennsylvania death related to the new swine flu is re-focusing attention on the spread of the disease in the Commonwealth. A 55-year-old woman from Berks County has died. (Photo: Novel H1N1 Swine flu virus, courtesy CDC)
Pennsylvania’s acting physician general says the woman had pre-existing health conditions that increased her risk for flu complications. Dr. Stephen Ostroff says the anti-viral medication used to treat the H1N1 virus works best when it’s taken early in the progression of the flu.
Ostroff: And it’s effective in two ways. It can reduce the duration of the flu, although that’s only, say, by a day, or by a day and a half at most. But there is also some evidence that it will reduce the likelihood of complications in the people that are at high risk of developing them.
There have been 18 U.S. deaths related to the new flu. Ostroff says most of those fatal cases were in people who had chronic illnesses like lung disease or other serious conditions that can worsened with a bout of flu.
Ostroff: We also know that diabetics are at increased risk of having complications from the flu. Pregnant women are an increased risk of complications and individuals that — for one reason or another — have a compromised immune system.
While media coverage has waned, Ostroff says in the last week there’s been an up tick in the number of H1N1 cases, especially in central and north east Pennsylvania. The Berks County woman was treated in a hospital, but acquired the flu virus in the community.
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