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Jul 28, 2009 8:03 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton man dies from Swine flu

Jul 28, 2009 8:03 PM

An East Hampton man diagnosed with the H1NI Influenza A virus, or the swine flu, died Thursday night, becoming the seventh person in Suffolk County and the first person on the East End to die from the virus.

Dr. Humayun Chaudhry, commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, announced the death on Friday.

The department did not identify the man and would say only that he died in a hospital in Suffolk County. A press release noted that he was between 25 and 35 and had a serious underlying medical condition, which he had suffered from for many years, and was admitted to the hospital with a fever, cough and pneumonia on July 10 before testing positive for the H1N1 virus.

In the press release, Dr. Chaudhry urged residents to take care to minimize their exposure to the virus and emphasized that “those who are at increased risk of influenza-related complications should be particularly vigilant and contact their physicians immediately should flu-like symptoms occur.” A fever and cough are the two primary symptoms, Dr. Chaudhry said in a phone interview on Monday.

High-risk groups include young children, pregnant women, residents of chronic-care facilities, people with compromised immune systems, those under the age of 19 who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy, and those with underlying health conditions, including asthma, chronic pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease, hematological disorders, metabolic disorders, neuromuscular disorders and cancer, according to Dr. Chaudhry.

To date, there have been three confirmed cases in East Hampton, including the death, and a total of 160 confirmed cases of swine flu in Suffolk County, although not all people who get sick are tested for the presence of the virus.

“We know that the H1N1 virus is ubiquitous, it’s everywhere,” Dr. Chaudhry said. But the deaths in Suffolk County were all individuals who suffered from chronic, acute medical conditions that had weakened their immune systems, he said.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that to date there have been one million cases of swine flu in the United States already, “but the majority did not need or seek medical attention,” Dr. Chaudhry said.

Public health officials are focused on the fall when they anticipate a H1N1 vaccine will become available and on Wednesday, the CDC is holding a meeting to decide on the priority populations for the vaccine, according to Dr. Chaudhry. “There is a sense that quite a lot of people will want this vaccine. Discussions are underway on how best to deliver those vaccines,” he said.

Next week, on August 7, the New York State Department of Health is holding a mandatory meeting in Albany for all state health commissioners to talk about some of the lessons learned in the last three months and also to plan for the fall.

“No one knows what’s going to happen to the virus in the ensuing months,” Dr. Chaudhry said, “but I think the prudent thing to do is be anticipatory.”

Dr. Chaudhy also pointed out that the CDC has upped its recommendation for the seasonal influenza vaccine. Last year, they recommended that it would be a good idea, if feasible, for children as young as six months old to get the vaccine. “Now in light of what happened with H1N1, just the other day, they issued a formal recommendation that in the coming season children six months and older should get a seasonal influenza vaccine,” Dr, Chaudhry said.

As of last Friday, there were 43,771 confirmed and probable cases of swine flu and 302 deaths in the United States and its territories, with the highest number of deaths nationwide, 63, in New York, according to the CDC website.

For additional information about swine flu, residents have been asked to visit the county health department’s website at suffolkcountyny.gov/departments/healthservices.aspx.

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