Another H1N1 death

Deana Stokes Sullivan
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Overall numbers showing decline, minister says

Health Minister Jerome Kennedy began his media briefing on H1N1 Sunday afternoon by expressing condolences to family and friends of the province's seventh swine flu victim.

Eastern Health said a 29-year-old woman died at one of its facilities Saturday, due to complications related to the H1N1 influenza. The health authority said the patient had underlying medical conditions, but due to patient confidentiality, no further details were released.

Health Minister Jerome Kennedy held a media briefing Sunday afternoon on the H1N1 pandemic measures in this province. The latest figures show a drop in the number of hospital admissions. - Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Health Minister Jerome Kennedy began his media briefing on H1N1 Sunday afternoon by expressing condolences to family and friends of the province's seventh swine flu victim.

Eastern Health said a 29-year-old woman died at one of its facilities Saturday, due to complications related to the H1N1 influenza. The health authority said the patient had underlying medical conditions, but due to patient confidentiality, no further details were released.

"We are deeply saddened that another resident of our province has passed away," said Vickie Kaminski, president and CEO of Eastern Health, who also extended sympathy to the woman's family and friends.

Meanwhile, Kennedy reported a decline in hospital admissions.

But he cautioned that it could be just a "blip" in terms of a day or two and over the next couple of days, health officials should have a better idea whether or not the province has already reached the peak of the second wave of H1N1.

Kennedy said Thursday, the province reported about 34 new admissions of patients with flu-like illness over a 24-hour period, but between 8 a.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday, there were about 20.

The total number of patients being treated in hospital for flu-like symptoms was also down from about 135 Thursday to about 120 Sunday morning and intensive care patient numbers dropped from about 35 to 20.

Kennedy said he didn't have numbers in terms of people showing up at flu clinics or emergency rooms, but from a briefing Saturday with health officials, he was told the numbers in recent days were also on the decline.

The health minister also announced Sunday beginning today, the criteria is being expanded for H1N1 vaccine eligibility.

Kennedy said during the past couple of weeks, the province tried to deal with people with chronic respiratory illness, who were deemed to be at highest risk.

As of today, the criteria is being expanded to include all individuals under age 65 with chronic medical conditions, including diabetes, cardiac disease, blood disorders and bowel disease.

In addition, anyone receiving hemodialysis, regardless of age, will also be eligible for the vaccine beginning today.

The minister said anyone with questions as to whether or not they meet the criteria can obtain more information from their regional health authority's website or by phoning their health authority's toll-free number.

The immunization of children in grades four to six will also begin today and Kennedy said he expects to know early this week, how the province will proceed next with immunizing school children.

The province expects to receive two shipments of vaccine early this week, 18,500 doses in the first and 10,500 in the second shipment, for a total of 29,000 doses of adjuvanted vaccine.

Kennedy said the province also has about 12,500 doses of unadjuvanted vaccine and is prepared to offer that vaccine to people in the defined chronic illnesses category later this week if it appears the province might run out of the adjuvanted vaccine.

"If for any reason they chose not to, they can wait until the following week when we get a new shipment, they will be in line to get it at that time," Kennedy said.

He said this decision was made after consultation with the medical officers of health and CEOs of the regional health authorities Friday.

"I would encourage people to look closely at receiving the unadjuvanted vaccine. I understand from Health Canada the unadjuvanted vaccine has been approved for use in individuals 10 to 64 years of age, both healthy people and people with chronic conditions. However, what we are choosing to do is to leave that to the decision of the individual once they're faced with that situation," Kennedy said.

The adjuvanted vaccine includes added ingredients to trigger a stronger immune system reaction to the H1N1 antigen, whereas the unadjuvanted vaccine doesn't contain any immune-boosting additives.

Kennedy said, hopefully, within the next week, the province will start to move to the last of the chronic illness groups, finish vaccinating its school children and be able to move into immunizing the rest of the population.

dss@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Health Canada

Geographic location: Eastern Health

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