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Health officials: Cape woman dies from H1N1

By Staff | Oct 15, 2009

Cape Coral had its first fatality from the H1N1 virus Wednesday.

The Lee County Health Department reported that a 30-year-old woman with no other medical conditions died after contracting the flu strain.

Recent debate on H1N1 has focused on the deadliness of the strain and whether getting the vaccine is necessary. So far 112 deaths have been reported in Florida with 20 of them under the age of 24.

There have been four H1N1-related deaths in Lee County.

“We offer our sincere condolences to this woman’s family and friends for their loss,” said Dr. Judith Hartner, director of the Lee County Health Department.

Many of the other deaths statewide have involved people not much older than 50, and while many cases of the flu strain are mild, the health department is still recommending that everyone gets the vaccine.

“While most cases of H1N1 swine flu are mild, there are exceptions,” Hartner said. “This is why the Lee County Health Department urges our community to get vaccinations against H1N1, a virus to which we have no immunity.”

In Lee County, a 57-year-old woman died from the virus in August and a 51-year-old man died in July. Neither had any pre-existing conditions.

The seasonal flu vaccine is currently available in Lee County, but doctors and drug stores have stated that supplies are running short because more people are getting the shots to stop from getting the regular flu.

Each year 36,000 people nationwide die from seasonal influenza, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

A shipment of the H1N1 vaccine arrived in the first week of October to immunize health workers and emergency medical personnel, but the rest has been late in coming.

Original estimates had more supplies coming in mid-October, when the vaccine would first be given to children, pregnant women and those with pre-existing conditions.

Health department clinics and 12 area high schools will begin offering the vaccine countywide starting Oct. 26, one week later than originally planned, according to a prepared statement from the department.

“We are delaying the start of the public vaccination clinics by one week to increase our confidence that we will be able to meet the demand,” Hartner said.

Most people want the H1N1 vaccine, but there is some fear over its safety. A vaccine for a similar strain of swine flu in 1976 resulted in 30 people dying from a nerve disorder called Guillain-Barr syndrome they allegedly contracted from the shot.

One report from the Associated Press stated that children under the age of 10 may need two of the vaccines to be fully immunized, according to licensed children’s vaccine maker Sanofi Pasteur.