Maine CDC Press Release

December 3, 2009

Two More H1N1 Deaths Reported in Maine - Total Now Stands at 11

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH
(207)-287-3266

AUGUSTA – Two more deaths have been reported due to H1N1 influenza in Maine, bringing the total to 11 since August, according to the Maine CDC in the Department of Health and Human Services.

"It is with great sadness that we have learned of two people 50 – 65 years of age in Penobscot County who have died this week of complications associated with H1N1. Both had multiple serious underlying health conditions,” said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, Director of the Maine CDC. “We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the deceased. While most people with H1N1 in Maine and the nation have had a relatively mild infection, this news demonstrates how severe influenza can be, especially in adults with underlying conditions, pregnant women, and children.”

H1N1 flu continues to be widespread in Maine. “The good news is that H1N1 vaccine continues to flow into the state. We are distributing increasing amounts of vaccine to health care providers for their high priority patients including adults with underlying medical conditions, children, pregnant women, as well as caregivers and household contacts of infants less than 6 months old,” said Dr. Mills. “There is also access to prescription antiviral medicines for those at high risk for complications and who have symptoms or whose household contact has symptoms. These medicines are available for free through a prescription and the state-purchased stockpile for those who do not have funds to pay for them and lack adequate insurance.”

“Because H1N1 is so widespread, it is important for those at high risk for complications to take extra precautions. We advise staying away from large crowds and starting antiviral medicines at the first sign of illness for those who are at high risk, which include anyone with an underlying medical condition, everyone over 64 years of age, under 2 years of age, and pregnant women,” advised Dr. Mills. “It is also important that those who are ill not travel.”

Since first being recognized in April 2009, novel influenza A (H1N1) has spread across the globe. In June, a pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization. Children and young adults are disproportionately affected by H1N1, accounting for the majority of confirmed cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. An estimated 4,000 people in the United States have died of H1N1. In August, a York County man in his 50s was the first Maine resident reported to die of the pandemic strain of H1N1.

Over the past five weeks, H1N1 has become widespread in Maine and eight other adults have died from H1N1. All people who have died thus far in Maine have had underlying conditions, most very serious ones. The previous eight deaths include: a young adult from Penobscot County; five adults ages 25 – 65, one each from Penobscot County, Hancock County, Washington County, Androscoggin County, and Franklin County; and two adults older than ae 65, one from Kennebec County and one from Penobscot County.

In a normal flu season in Maine, an estimated 150 people die and about a dozen outbreaks occur in long term care facilities. Usually, fewer than a half dozen schools report high absentee rates.
“People should assume they will be exposed to the H1N1 influenza at some point, and with very limited vaccine supplies in Maine right now, we should all take precautions to prevent serious illness”, said Dr. Mills. These precautions include:

  • When vaccine is available, consider getting H1N1 flu vaccine if you are in a high priority group. Those in these groups include: pregnant women, anyone 6 months – 25 years of age, caregivers and household contacts of young infants <6 months old, anyone 25 – 65 with underlying medical conditions, and health care workers. Eventually there should be sufficient vaccine for anyone who desires it.
  • Contact your health care provider if there are flu-like symptoms in a household in which anyone is younger than 2 years old, 65 years or older, pregnant, and/or has an underlying medical condition. There are prescription medicines (antivirals such as Tamiflu) that may help reduce the severity and duration of the illness.
  • Although most people can stay home without seeing a health care provider, anyone with the flu should seek medical attention for:
    • Dehydration
    • Trouble breathing
    • Getting better, then suddenly getting a lot worse
    • Any major change in one’s condition
  • Stay home if you are sick, until you are fever-free for a full 24 hours without taking fever-reducing medicine.
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow, or into a tissue. Throw this tissue away.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, but especially after coughing and sneezing. Alcohol-based hand gels can also be used.
  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes. Germs can be spread by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid contact with sick people. If you are at very high risk for complication, you may want to avoid large crowds.

"We know that any type of influenza can cause serious illness, so it is important that we all redouble our prevention efforts to limit the spread of this illness and to prepare for continued expansion of H1N1," said Dr. Mills. For more information, http://www.maineflu.gov .