Harrisburg – The Department of Health today confirmed that a five-year old Adams County boy died on Oct. 31 as a result of complications from H1N1 flu. This is Pennsylvania’s first pediatric death associated with H1N1.
To protect the family’s privacy, the department will not release additional details about the case. To date, pandemic H1N1 infection has been confirmed in 20 fatal cases of influenza in Pennsylvania.
“The death of this child is a very unfortunate reminder of how serious influenza can be. We extend our sympathies to his family,” said Secretary of Health Everette James. “This serves as a reminder of why we strongly urge vaccination of all children and young adults ages 6 months to 24 years against pandemic H1N1 influenza.”
Pennsylvania is currently seeing widespread influenza activity in all regions of the state, with the majority of the cases occurring in the younger age groups. All persons 6 months to 24 years of age are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, to receive the H1N1 vaccine as soon as it becomes available.
Because of vaccine manufacturing delays, children may be exposed to the H1N1 virus before they are able to be vaccinated and protected. Many children who get H1N1 influenza have mild to moderate illness similar to regular seasonal influenza. Symptoms may include fever, coughing and/or sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches and/or body aches, chills, fatigue and possibly vomiting and diarrhea.
Warning signs that indicate a child needs urgent medical attention include: rapid or difficult breathing, bluish or gray skin color, not drinking enough fluids, low urine output or no tears when crying, severe or persistent vomiting, not waking up or not interacting, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, or flu-like symptoms that improve but later return with fever and a worsened cough.
Parents should contact their healthcare provider if their children have flu symptoms and also have asthma, heart, or certain other chronic underlying health conditions. Antiviral medications can be prescribed for some children to help prevent serious flu complications. These medicines work best if taken within two days of getting sick.
Children and adults should practice good hygiene to prevent spreading the flu. Use a tissue or sleeve to cover coughs and sneezes; keep hands away from your face and don’t touch your mouth, nose or eyes; wash your hands with soap often (washing for as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” three times) or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; keep frequently used surfaces clean; and stay home when sick.
Other priority groups targeted for vaccination include healthcare workers, pregnant women, household contacts and childcare providers for those under six months, and those under 65 with underlying health conditions.
The federal government has allocated more than a million doses of vaccine which the department has distributed to certified providers statewide. Members of the priority groups should contact their healthcare provider to learn if the H1N1 vaccine is available. If their provider does not plan to administer the vaccine or if an individual does not have a healthcare provider, please call 1-877-PA HEALTH or visit www.H1N1inPA.com for more information.
As vaccine supplies improve, the Department of Health will begin to offer public vaccination clinics.