AUGUSTA, Maine — Four more Maine people have died this week from complications of the H1N1 virus, bringing to 17 the total number of swine flu deaths in the state since the first death was announced in August. All of the victims have suffered from serious underlying health conditions.
According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, those who died this week were from Androscoggin, Kennebec, Knox and Oxford counties.
Dr. Dora Anne Mills, director of the Maine CDC, said Thursday that the number of new H1N1 cases in Maine is declining.
“H1N1 flu has been relatively mild in Maine compared with other states, and continues to decline,” Mills said in a prepared statement Thursday. “Hospitalizations due to H1N1 declined this past week from 50 a month ago to 11, and only one school reported an outbreak.”
But with the regular flu season still ahead and with supplies of both H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccine growing, Mills advised Maine residents to get vaccinated against both strains as soon as possible.
Seasonal influenza typically kills about 150 people in Maine each year.
Since October, Maine has received 530,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine, with the largest supply arriving in the last two weeks. Maine CDC recommends that if local supplies are not sufficient for all who want a vaccine, the existing supply should be distributed first to priority groups established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: pregnant women; all people 6 months through 24 years of age; caregivers and household contacts of those under 6 months; people 25 through 64 years of age with underlying health conditions; and health care workers.
“The good news is that earlier this week, we expanded vaccine availability beyond the U.S. CDC’s priority groups to include anyone who wants the vaccine, if local supplies allow,’’ Mills said.
Prescription antiviral medicines are also widely available to those at risk for complications from flu, including those 64 and older, she said.
The local availability of H1N1 or seasonal flu vaccine can be determined by calling 211, calling a local health care provider or visiting the Maine CDC online.
On the Web: www.maineflu.gov