Health Department Reports More Widespread Flu
First death linked to 2009 H1N1 reported in Vermont

For Immediate Release:  Oct. 28, 2009
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON – The Vermont Department of Health is reporting a significant increase in influenza illness around the state over the past week. Cases of 2009 H1N1 have been confirmed by the Health Department Laboratory in all areas of the state, and hospitals are reporting a sharp increase in the number of visits related to respiratory or viral illness.

The first death in Vermont linked to 2009 H1N1 influenza was also reported this week in an adult with serious medical conditions.

“While we know that every year the regular seasonal flu causes serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths, this is a very sad marker in our experience with the new H1N1 influenza,” said Health Commissioner Wendy Davis, MD at a media briefing today. “Unfortunately, we expect – as is the case in every flu season – that there will be more hospitalizations and deaths in the coming weeks and months.”

Most people who get the flu will be sick for a few days or a week and recover well after staying home and taking care. Most people will not need to see their health care provider, and will not need to go to the hospital.

“Fortunately, so far and for most people, this new flu is causing mild illness,” said Dr. Davis. “But we want everyone to be alert for warning signs and to know when to call for help and get medical attention.”

Unlike the regular season flu, the 2009 H1N1 virus is especially affecting children and young adults – as well as people with chronic medical conditions.

The Health Department also reported today the loss of 800 doses of vaccine due a refrigeration malfunction in one of its offices this weekend. Flu vaccine must be continuously be stored at a temperature of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (35.6 to 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit) until it is used.

“The loss was concerning to all of us at the Health Department. Unfortunately, it is a known risk in the vaccination world and underscores the critical nature of vaccine storage and handling. We have taken immediate steps to prevent this from happening again,” Dr. Davis said.

This is the first week that vaccine is being provided in school clinics. Fifteen clinics have been held to date, with a total of 27 scheduled for the week, and more being scheduled for the coming weeks. Despite postponements of some clinics due to limited vaccine supply, reports so far are that the clinics are running smoothly and without major problems.

“More vaccine is coming into the state every week, and we are working hard to move it out as quickly and equitably as possible to health care providers, hospitals, health agencies, schools and colleges so we can vaccinate first the people who need it most,” said Dr. Davis.

To date, a total of 38,100 doses of H1N1 vaccine have been received and distributed around the state.

Extensive information, tools and resources about seasonal and pandemic flu, healthy habits and preparedness are available at the Health Department’s website: healthvermont.gov or dial 2-1-1. You can also follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/healthvermont.

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