Maine CDC Press Release

November 25, 2009

Two More Deaths Reported Due to H1N1 in Maine

AUGUSTA – Two more deaths have been reported due to H1N1 influenza in Maine, bringing the total to nine 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 an Androscoggin County resident and a Franklin ounty resident, both 25 – 65 years of age who have died this week of confirmed H1N1. Both had multiple serious underlying 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. This past week 31 Maine people have been hospitalized, including eight children. Three of these hospitalizations were to intensive care units. 270 new cases of H1N1 were identified through testing, including cases from all 16 counties. 29 K-12 schools have reported high absentee rates this past week, bringing the total to 172 schools reporting high absentee rates since the beginning of the H1N1 pandemic. Visits to emergency departments and outpatient offices for flu are still high but have decreased this past week.

"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 6months 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 throughout the country, it is important for those at high risk for complications to take extra precautions over this holiday weekend. 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 everyone over 64 years of age, under 2 years of age, and those who are pregnant or who have an underlying medical condition,” advised Dr. Mills. “It is also important that those who are ill not travel, even if that means missing the holiday dinner."

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 three weeks, H1N1 has become widespread in Maine and seven 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 seven deaths include: a young adult from Penobscot County; three adults ages 25 – 65, one from Penobscot County, one from Hancock County, and one from Washington County; and two adults >65 years of age, one from Kennebec County and one from Penobscot County.

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 <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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