Swine flu leads to 2nd death in Maine

Posted Nov. 06, 2009, at 10:05 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:10 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A young man from Penobscot County has become the second Mainer to die of swine flu, state health officials said Friday.

The victim, who was not being identified and was between 18 and 25 years old, had serious underlying medical conditions, said Dora Anne Mills, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mills said most people who get H1N1 have relatively mild infections, but “this news demonstrates how severe influenza can be, especially in those with underlying conditions, pregnant women and children.”

The victim died earlier this week at home and was not attending a local college or university, the CDC said.

His name, the date of his death and his underlying medical problems were not being released to protect his family’s privacy.

The first victim, a York County resident in his 50s who died in August, also had an underlying medical condition, according to the CDC. He had been hospitalized for three weeks.

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Neighboring New Hampshire also recorded its first swine flu death in August, a 22-year-old woman whose other health problems may have contributed to her death. Vermont officials reported that state’s first swine flu death in October, saying it was an adult with a serious underlying medical condition.

The latest Maine death was reported a day after Mills said H1N1 has spread statewide and is causing widespread school absenteeism. About 100 schools have held vaccine clinics and more than 200 scheduled clinics this week and next, Mills said.

In Vermont, some people left a Manchester flu clinic without being vaccinated even though vaccine was available. Health Commissioner Wendy Davis said some who attended the Thursday H1N1 clinic didn’t want to receive the form of the vaccine that is administered through a nasal spray.

Davis said she felt people might be concerned about the safety of the nasal vaccine because it is made with a live virus that stimulates the body’s immune system to become immune to the H1N1 virus.

“It’s made with live, but very much weakened viruses that do not grow at normal body temperatures,” Davis said.

Because the live virus won’t grow at body temperatures it will not cause people to get the flu, she said. Davis said that for healthy people between age 2 and 49 the nasal spray is safe and effective.

While vaccines are limited in Maine, Mills said a significant portion of the state’s stockpile of anti-viral medicines has been distributed for those who do not have adequate insurance coverage, who are at risk for complications, who are ill with symptoms of H1N1 or have been exposed to a household member with influenza.

In Maine, six of 10 people responding to a recent survey said they plan to get the vaccine for themselves or for family members, while 34 percent said they will not and the rest were undecided or didn’t answer. Critical Insights of Portland interviewed 600 Mainers between Oct. 23 and Oct. 27.

The World Health Organization declared a pandemic in June.

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