Two more deaths in northern and eastern Maine have been linked to the swine flu, bringing the total to seven deaths in Maine since August.
Both deaths occurred over the weekend. One victim was more than 65 years old and lived in Penobscot County; the other was a Washington County resident between the age of 25 and 65, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
State health officials said Monday that both victims were adults with severe underlying health conditions.
“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 those with underlying conditions, pregnant women and children,” said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, director of the Maine CDC.
Mills said H1N1 is widespread in Maine now and that the number of cases will continue to grow.
“People should assume they will be exposed to the H1N1 influenza at some point,” she said, “and with very limited vaccine supplies in Maine right now, we should all take precautions to prevent serious illness.”
Mills made the following recommendations:
— Those at highest risk for serious illness should get a vaccine as soon as possible. This high-priority group includes pregnant women, anyone between 6 months and 25 years of age, caregivers and household contacts of infants under 6 months old, adults between 25 and 65 with underlying health conditions, and health care workers.
— Most people who do become ill with flu symptoms — high fever, sore throat, and respiratory symptoms such as coughing and sneezing — should stay home, drink fluids and rest. But anyone with severe illness or a sudden worsening of symptoms should seek medical care and possibly take a prescribed anti-viral medication such as Tamiflu or Relenza.
— To decrease the likelihood of getting sick in the first place, Mainers should avoid crowds, wash their hands frequently and refrain from touching their nose, eyes and mouth.