It’s no longer flu season, but a new strain has extended the season into the summer months.
Yolo County suffered its first death from the novel H1N1 influenza strain with the loss of Esparto resident Stacey Speegle-Hernandez.
On Aug. 7, after contracting the flu, the 30-year-old mother of two caught pneumonia and died at Woodland Memorial Hospital.
The Sacramento County public health media office said that as of Aug. 18 six had died of H1N1, with about 84 hospitalizations.
More cases of H1N1 were reported in Yolo County’s Madison on Aug. 13. Roman Figueroa, 26, was hospitalized with the virus. Figueroa lived just a few blocks from Hernandez.
The Aug. 2 death of 40-year-old UC Davis veterinary hospital administrative assistant Jennifer Lee Zeka was originally suspected to be from the H1N1 virus, but autopsy results eliminated the H1N1 possibility.
Yolo County Health Officer Dr. Joseph Iser says there are about 50 lab confirmed cases of H1N1 in the Sacramento region, but that there are probably hundreds of people sick with H1N1 because it is no longer recommended to go to the doctor.
Many question how seriously the flu needs to be taken.
“People should take this very seriously,” Iser said. “Unlike the common influenza this flu can be more lethal to a younger age group.“
Sacramento County public health media officer Kerry Shearer explained some of the doubt about the flu’s extent.
“There is uncertainty whether the virus will remain mild or increase in variance this fall,” Shearer said. “There is also the fact that healthy people in California are dying from this flu, which is scary.“
Senior neurobiology, physiology and behavior and comparative literature double major Neda Mitkova, from the UC Davis pre-Medical American Medical Student Association, had her own experience with the virus.
“After speaking with an emergency room physician at the Sutter Davis hospital, I do feel like there was an overreaction to the H1N1 virus,” Mitkova said. “The ER staff thought that what I had was H1N1, but they said that the treatment would be no different from the typical flu virus treatment.“
Shearer recommends taking precautions.
“There are simple prevention steps that really do work,” Shearer said. “People need to think ahead and make sure to be prepared if something were to happen like their child’s school being closed.“
According to Candice Burns from the media relations division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the H1N1 vaccine should be available in mid-October mainly for those who are at higher risk for novel H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems. It is intended to be used alongside seasonal flu vaccine.
According to the CDC website, H1N1 is a new flu virus of swine origin that first caused illness in Mexico and the U.S. in March and April of 2009. The flu spreads through coughs and sneezes of people sick with the virus, but it may also spread by touching infected objects and then touching the nose or mouth.
The H1N1 infection has been reported to cause a wide range of flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. In addition, many people also have reported nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
H1N1 was named a pandemic by the World Health Organization on June 11.
The CDC website said that as of Aug. 14 there had been 7,511 hospitalizations and 477 deaths in the U.S. and its territories.
For more information on the virus, tips, and updates visit ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/flu.
Vaccine information is available at www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2009/r090729b.html.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached email@example.com.