Two more Mainers have died from the complications of H1N1 influenza, the state announced Wednesday, bringing to nine the total number of flu-related deaths in Maine since the first death here was reported in August.
The latest deaths occurred in individuals between the ages of 25 and 65. One was a resident of Androscoggin County and the other of Franklin County. Both victims had multiple underlying health problems, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
While most Americans have experienced relatively minor illness, an estimated 4,000 have died from the H1N1 virus since it first was recognized in April. Children, pregnant women and young adults have an elevated risk of suffering severe illness.
In Maine, 31 people were hospitalized with H1N1 this past week, including eight children. The virus is present in all 16 counties, with 270 new cases confirmed through testing. This week, 29 schools announced high absentee rates, and visits to hospital emergency departments and outpatient clinics for flulike symptoms remain high.
Public health officials say H1N1 vaccine continues to flow into the state, but supplies still fall far short of demand. Until vaccines are more readily available, they say, Mainers should take steps to protect themselves from flu, including staying away from crowds and being vigilant about hand washing.
People who do become ill with symptoms of flu should not travel or attend holiday gatherings, according to the Maine CDC. Those in high-risk groups who become ill, especially children or adults with underlying health problems such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes, should seek medical attention and perhaps take a prescribed anti-viral medication such as Tamiflu or Relenza.