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Officials not sure H1N1 caused Henry death

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

While the H1N1 influenza virus, also known as the swine flu, has been connected to a recent death in Henry County, health officials aren't sure it was the cause of the death.

District 4 Health Services Risk Communicator Hayla Hall confirmed a case of H1N1 was found in a 45-year-old Henry County woman who died on Feb. 13.

"This is considered an H1N1-associated death because lab specimens taken post-mortem tested positive for H1N1 [on Feb. 17]," Hall said. "We do not know if H1N1 is the cause of death."

Hall said the agency could not reveal whether the woman exhibited any signs of the virus before her death.

Two hospitalizations associated with the swine flu were reported in Clayton County this year, according to Veronda Griffin, spokeswoman for the Clayton County Board of Health.

The Georgia Department of Community Health reported that, so far this year, there have been at least eight deaths and more than 100 hospitalizations associated with H1N1 statewide.

Flu pandemics have been known to peak in the month of February, said Rony Francois, director of the Division of Public Health at the Georgia Department of Community Health. Francois said that, although 2009 H1N1 flu cases are decreasing, it is still circulating and significantly affecting people younger than 25 years of age.

"During this flu season, we have witnessed that the majority of those at high risk of complications from the 2009 H1N1 flu virus are individuals between the ages of six months to 24 years of age," said Francois.

Francois said the 2009 H1N1 vaccine is available to anyone, but it is recommended for children between the ages of six months and 9 years old. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends those children receive two doses of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine to ensure immunity.

"Vaccination is the best protection we have against flu," said Hall, who added that vaccine is also available for the seasonal flu.

Hall advises residents to take steps to maintain good personal hygiene to combat the spread of the flu virus.

"Take everyday actions to stay healthy," she said. "Influenza is thought to spread mainly person to person, through coughing or sneezing of infected people.

"Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Wash your hands often with soap and water [or] use an alcohol-based hand rub."

Hall said residents should avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth because "germs spread that way." She recommends that people who are sick stay home from work or school and limit their contact with others to keep from infecting them.

For more information about flu prevention, visit www.health.state.ga.us/h1n1flu, or call 1-888-H1N1-INFO (1-888-4161-4636).