Thursday, February 4th, 2010
By Shelley Grieshop
Local death blamed on H1N1 virus
  The death of a 59-year-old Wapakoneta woman on Friday was due to the H1N1 flu, local health officials have confirmed.
The mother and grandmother, who was not identified by Auglaize County Health Commissioner Charlotte Parsons, died at Lima Memorial Hospital. The Ohio Department of Health has confirmed the death as the result of contracting H1N1 flu, she added.
Parsons would not say whether the woman had underlying health conditions that may have contributed to her death. She cited patient privacy regulations for the lack of information released.
The woman reportedly was admitted as a patient at Joint Township District Memorial Hospital in St. Marys before being transported to the Lima hospital.
Cases of the H1N1 flu have slowed nationwide since December and no states currently are identified as having widespread activity of the illness. To date, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention have tallied 1,857 deaths and 39,387 hospitalizations related to the "swine flu," as it is known.
The CDC issued a recent statement saying that nearly all confirmed cases of influenza reported to them are the H1N1 strain, not seasonal flu.
Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Jen House said the state has confirmed 51 deaths from H1N1. However, most of those represent deaths of children because health officials are not required to report adult deaths from H1N1, she said. The Wapakoneta woman's death was not included in that statewide count, she added.
During Wednesday's meeting of the Mercer County-Celina City Health Department, Administrator Dale Palmer noted that his staff was "consumed" with H1N1 issues for eight of the 12 months of 2009. The department is now considering the purchase of a new phone system because the current one was terribly inadequate last year during the H1N1 outbreak.
"People kept getting busy signals all the time," explained Jason Place, the department's director of emergency response.
The health department continues to offer H1N1 flu vaccine clinics three times per week, but they're now attracting fewer and fewer clients despite the fact the dose is free.
Joyce Jansen, director of nursing and communicable disease coordinator for the local health department, told board members her staff so far has distributed 4,154 doses of the vaccine to 10.13 percent of the county's population. She said the staff has worked to educate the public and she is disappointed with the low percentage of people vaccinated.
County Health Commissioner Dr. Philip Masser agreed.
"It's scary," he said of the response by local residents.
The percentage of the population vaccinated for H1N1 flu in Auglaize County is nearly as low - 10.5 percent or 4,887 doses, Parsons said.
Jansen and Parsons also are concerned with the excess doses of vaccine they have in storage. Jansen said she currently has 6,000 doses to distribute; some of it doesn't expire for a year or more and could be used this fall, she said.
"I predict (most of the current supply) will sit there on the shelf," Jansen said.
Parsons said ODH officials have advised each county and city health department to step up efforts to educate the public on the need for the vaccine. Some H1N1 flu experts, as well as local health officials, believe there could be more outbreaks throughout the year.
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