PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - It's a disheartening announcement doctors knew would come. An early elementary-aged child has become the first Mississippian to lose a life to swine flu. State officials said in a press conference Friday the child was especially vulnerable.
"This child had several chronic underlying conditions that made him high risk for complications from the flu," said State Epidemiologist Mary Currier.
The child has not been identified, but sources told WLOX the child was brought to Singing River Hospital, then sent to a South Alabama hospital for specialty care. The child died in late July. Singing River Health System's Chief Medical Officer Larry Shoemaker said the bad news was right in line with health officials' expectations.
"It's actually not surprising, given the number of people we have had with the flu," Shoemaker said. "And its actually somewhat good news that this is the first, seeing as how we've had so many cases across the nation."
Shoemaker said he believes this wont be the last Mississippi death from swine flu. He said the swine flu death rate seems to be the same as that of the regular flu, except this time a different age group is susceptible.
"With the swine flu, it's more problematic in young people and children," Shoemaker said. "With the seasonal flu, it's more problematic in older people, so it's the exact opposite."
The child is one of 436 people nationwide to fall victim to the disease. Currier said Friday more than 30 of those have been children.
Shoemaker said most cases can be treated easily by a physician. He also said Singing River Hospital and Ocean Springs Hospital were well-equipped to handle most cases of swine flu or seasonal flu.
"The hospital has been and is very prepared to take care of routine cases," Shoemaker said. "The serious complication rate should be not any higher than for routine flu."
Researchers are still developing a vaccine for swine flu. They expect it to be ready by mid-October.
"When that comes out, its recommended that the first dosages go to children who are older than 6 months, up to several years old," Shoemaker said. "To people who care for children who are less than 6 months. Pregnant women are high on the list."
The Mississippi Department of health is not requiring people to get the vaccine, but they strongly encourage people to get it as soon as it becomes available.
Health officials recommend a few easy ways to protect yourself and those around you from the disease. They include:
- Practicing good hygiene, like washing your hands and coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your sleeve
- Staying home when you're sick
- Getting the vaccine as soon as you can