Swine flu kills American Samoa child


POSTED: Friday, November 20, 2009

A 5-year-old boy flown here from American Samoa about a month ago for treatment of flulike illness died earlier this week of complications related to H1N1 influenza, said state epidemiologist Sarah Park.

The child's death will not be counted as a Hawaii swine flu death because he was not a local resident, said Park, chief of the Health Department's Disease Outbreak Division. But it is “;a reminder”; why children and young adults are among priority groups for H1N1 vaccine, she stressed.

Hawaii has had 11 H1N1-related deaths, 10 adults and one child, since May 5. All but one adult and the child had underlying medical conditions.

Dr. Tai Chen, medical officer of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Quarantine Station at Honolulu Airport, joined Park in a media briefing yesterday on swine flu.

;[Preview]  5-year-old boy from Samoa dies from H1N1 flu

The boy has been ill for a month and was flown to Oahu for specialized treatment not available in Samoa.

Watch ]


Chen announced a national travel campaign launched yesterday by CDC with “;four simple steps”; for travelers to stay healthy during the holiday season and avoid spreading flu:

» Do not travel if ill. Wait until a fever is gone more than 24 hours without fever-reducing medications.

» Frequently wash hands.

» Cover coughs and sneezes.

» Get vaccinated for H1N1 if you are in an at-risk group.

Chen also pointed out that during the three influenza pandemics of the 20th century, bacterial infections were a serious cause of illness and deaths among those with the flu virus.

Bacterial pneumonia is a particular concern.

“;Fortunately, we have two effective vaccines against pneumococcus recommended for people at high risk of infection from this bacteria,”; he said. But about 70 million Americans in the risk categories have not been vaccinated for it, he said.

Pneumonia shots are recommended for adults over 65 and anyone 2 or older who has a chronic disease, compromised immune system or other medical issues, under CDC guidelines.

A special pneumonia vaccine is recommended for children under age 5, Chen said.

“;It is especially important during the current H1N1 epidemic.”;

Park said the Health Department is focusing on two age groups: children 3 to 5 and young adults, ages 19 to 24.

Among the older group, Park said, “;Very few are getting vaccinated, and they are a huge target (for the virus).”; Those who are healthy are eligible for nasal spray vaccine, which some pharmacies and providers have, she said.

“;We know from the spring there can be college outbreaks, especially in dorms,”; she said.

She said 4,548 kids have been vaccinated in 18 school clinics , which are continuing on Oahu through Wednesday. School clinics will begin soon on Maui and Kauai and in early December on the Big Island, she said.

Park said Hawaii has thus far been allocated 217,800 doses of injectable swine flu vaccine and nasal spray, and about 99,000 doses have been distributed to statewide providers.

Vaccine is trickling in daily, and the Health Department wants to give out the doses, she said, but providers have documented only about 26 percent of the distributed vaccine.

She said the department has tried to make it as easy as possible for doctors and clinics to report what they have used — sending them forms and address labels to stick on envelopes. “;It has become really imperative. If they want more vaccine, they've got to give us documentation.”;