Health & Medicine

First H1N1 flu death in SLO County is confirmed

A San Luis Obispo County Jail inmate's death this week was due to complications from the H1N1 flu, according to a coroner’s report and confirmation from county public health officer Penny Borenstein.

His death marks the first official H1N1-related death in San Luis Obispo County, Borenstein said.

The autopsy results for Rudy Joseph Silva, 35, were released Friday by the county Sheriff’s Office with the official cause of death listed as “respiratory failure due to septic shock as a consequence of influenza A and staphylococcus.”

Silva died Monday after being hospitalized at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center on Jan. 23. Silva had tested positive for the H1N1 strain of influenza A in a sample examined by the county Public Health Department before he was taken to the hospital, Borenstein said.

The California Department of Public Health also announced Friday — before Silva’s confirmed H1N1-related death — that 147 confirmed deaths have occurred statewide so far this flu season, compared to 106 last year.

On Thursday evening, the Lucia Mar Unified School District confirmed a case of the H1N1 flu virus at Ocean View Elementary School in Arroyo Grande. Citing medical privacy laws, the Lucia Mar school district officials wouldn’t say whether the ill person was a student or adult connected to the school.

Borenstein said she couldn’t say whether the person was hospitalized, but that the symptoms were “serious” and being treated.

Cynthia Ravalin, Lucia Mar’s director of student services, said the district currently has no other suspected or confirmed cases of the H1N1 flu virus. But the district is urging parents to keep children experiencing a fever at home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone.

H1N1 is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that has led to nine hospitalizations countywide so far this flu season, Borenstein said.

Dr. Jim Beebe, director for the county Public Health Laboratory, said his lab has tested 268 samples from patients with flu symptoms, submitted by health care providers countywide. Of those, 60 percent tested positive for H1N1.

The strain of virus known as influenza A pH1N1 is a slight variation on the 2009 H1N1 virus and can cause severe illness to people of all ages, but is unusual in that it hits children and healthy young adults harder, health officials said. Older people, pregnant, and those with compromised immune systems also are at higher risk for serious illness from the flu.

Flu symptoms usually start suddenly and may include fever, headache, cough, sore throat, body ache, runny or stuff nose, diarrhea, vomiting and fatigue. Health officials say it is not too late to get a flu shot and urge anyone who hasn’t gotten one to do so now. Those with significant flu-like symptoms are advised to see a doctor.

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