A second King County resident has died from H1N1 influenza, and health officials in Seattle say the "opportunity to prepare is now," before a widespread infection takes hold this fall.
Officials this afternoon reported that a girl died on July 18 from complications of H1N1 influenza in combination with "underlying health conditions," the second reported H1N1 death in King County.
"Our hearts go out to this child's family," said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health - Seattle & King County. "This tragedy reminds us that the H1N1 virus is still here and children, particularly those with underlying health conditions, are at increased risk for more serious infections. As we expect the virus to become more widespread in the fall, children's health will be a primary concern for us."
Fleming said in a statement that researchers are developing a H1N1 vaccine for distribution locally later this year, but that families should prepare now " for keeping themselves and their children at home and away from work, school and child cares if they are ill until they are no longer infectious." This also means working with schools to assure learning continues at home whenever possible.
The health department also suggests:
• Businesses and organizations should use the summer months to prepare for a reduced work force if many become ill or need to stay at home. Employers are also encouraged whenever possible to allow for flexibility in sick leave policies so that staff may stay home and not infect others, as well as care for sick family members and children.
• Healthcare providers and hospitals should be prepared for a surge in patient volume, and review patient triage and staffing plans.
• People should plan to get vaccinated early for the seasonal flu in the fall. Seasonal influenza, a separate virus from the pandemic H1N1, will also be circulating in the fall, and can also cause serious illness. Seasonal flu vaccine will be readily available. Once H1N1 vaccine becomes available, additional vaccination recommendations will be forthcoming.
For more information go to www.kingcounty.gov/health/H1N1.