First swine flu death reported in Pasco
NEW PORT RICHEY - The first swine flu-related death in Pasco County has been confirmed. Tests on a 35-year-old man who died recently were positive for H1N1, according to the Pasco County health Department. It was unclear if the man had any underlying health conditions. "Underlying health issues can play a role in how people react to the [swine] flu," said Deanna Krautner, spokeswoman for the county health department. Krautner said that 4,600 doses of swine flu vaccine are en route to the county and should arrive today or early next week. The Flumist vaccines will be distributed to places that have ordered them, such as pediatrician offices and hospitals.The health department can place more orders for the vaccine, as needed, in the coming weeks and months, Krautner said. The most effective way to avoid getting swine flu is to take the vaccine, health officials say. "It's a new vaccine and some people are worried about the safety," Krautner said. "But it's produced the same way the regular flu vaccine is produced, it's just a new strain. It's the same manufacturing process used with other flu" vaccines. Pasco schools will offer students the vaccine later in the month, said school district spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli. Letters will go out to parents next week, she said. As concerns over the virus spread, the county school district urges children not to share supplies, among other "common sense-type" guidelines, said Assistant Superintendent Tina Tiede. Beyond that, preventive measures are mostly left to individual schools, she said. At Sand Pine Elementary School in Wesley Chapel today, for example, students and visitors were offered a squirt of hand sanitizer before entering the cafeteria. News of the swine flu-related death comes about a month after Saint Leo University's women's soccer team was forced to cancel two games because five players had contracted swine flu. Saint Leo students with flu-like symptoms have been encouraged to stay in their rooms, drink plenty of liquids and see a doctor if necessary. The university's Web site also offers tips on how to avoid contracting and spreading the swine flu, the symptoms of which are often similar to regular flu: fever, sore throat, cough and aches. County health officials weren't sure Thursday when more information on the 35-year-old victim will be available. "We are saddened by this news, our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends," said David Johnson, Pasco County health officer. "Like seasonal flu, H1N1 can be very serious and, as a community, we need to continue to follow the recommended precautions to avoid spreading infections."
Reporter Sherri Ackerman contributed to this report. Reporter Geoff Fox can be reached at (813) 731-1239.