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H1N1 in the News: Hawaii and Montana Look Back at the Year

May 5, 2010

State Health Officials Assess H1N1

In Hawaii, health officials marked exactly one year since the first case of H1N1 was reported in the state. The Hawaii State Department of Health is reviewing actions that were taken during the response.

Montana is reporting that this flu season was exceptionally mild. With the presence of the virulent strain of H1N1, the seasonal flu virus was virtually gone this year.

"It proved to be a fairly mild disease,” John Felton, assistant health officer for Yellowstone County told the Billings Gazette

Despite the relatively light flu year, younger people, American Indians, and those with chronic medical conditions were more severely infected. Eleven people who died of the virus in the state were between the ages of 45 and 65 years old—the highest rate of fatality of any age group. Only three of the victims were 65 or older. American Indians were twice more likely to die of the virus.

State health officials in Montana are still encouraging immunization in case there are upticks in the virus this summer.

New Reports on Impact of H1N1

A report to be published in the June 1 issues of Clinical Infectious Diseases analyzes 47 confirmed fatal cases of pandemic H1N1 flu that were reported to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. These deaths occurred in the early days of H1N1’s spread in the United States, from April 24 through July 1. New York City experienced a large outbreak during that time. 

The study finds that some people in New York who were not at first diagnosed with H1N1 or swine flu upon first presenting themselves for medical care later succumbed to the disease. Also, bacterial infections such as pneumonia contributed to the deaths of some patients.

According to another study presented yesterday at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting, fear of illness may have led to overcrowded emergency rooms. "Our study shows that public fear of disease, even when actual disease is not present, can bring about the problems of emergency department overcrowding," Dr. William M. McDonnell, assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine and adjunct professor of law at the University of Utah, told Business Week.

The findings were based on incremental increases in hospital visits during a three-week period: the week before H1N1 became a public concern, the week when it was publicized but not yet present in the community, and the week after when it was present in the area.


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