Maine CDC Press Release

November 14, 2009

Maine Records Two More Deaths Linked to H1N1

AUGUSTA – Two more deaths have been reported linked to H1N1 influenza in Maine, bringing the total to five since August, and a Kennebec County long-term care facility is experiencing an outbreak of H1N1, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control.

A Hancock County resident between the ages of 25 years old and 50 years old and a Kennebec County resident older than 65 years old died last week. Both had H1N1 and both had underlying conditions.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the deceased,” said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, Director of the Maine CDC. “While most people with H1N1 in Maine and the nation have had relatively mild infections, this news demonstrates how severe influenza can be, especially in those with underlying conditions, pregnant women and children.”

No additional information will be released on the two deaths to protect the privacy of the families.

In addition to several dozen schools with outbreaks of flu this week, a long-term care facility in Kennebec County appears to be the first such facility with an outbreak of H1N1. The facility has been closed to visitors, and all staff and residents are being placed on antiviral medicines such as Tamiflu from the State’s stockpile.

“While seasonal flu commonly causes outbreaks in long-term care facilities, H1N1 has not, and this is felt to be in part because infection with H1N1 is relatively uncommon in people older than 64 years,” said Dr. Mills. “We are working with this facility to implement the same measures as we would with a seasonal flu outbreak, with the addition of antiviral medicines for all staff as well as residents.”

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 to die of the pandemic strain of H1N1. Over the past three weeks, H1N1 has become widespread in Maine. This past 10 days a young adult and a middle-aged adult in Penobscot were identified to have died of H1N1. All people who have died thus far in Maine have had underlying conditions, some very serious ones. Over 100 schools have experienced outbreaks and several dozen have been hospitalized.

In a normal flu season in Maine, an estimated 150 people die, about a dozen outbreaks occur in long-term care facilities, and 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 younger than 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.

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