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Local child hospitalized with H1N1 virus; autopsy requested in woman's death

A young child is the first San Juan County resident hospitalized with the H1N1 virus.

As of noon Friday, the child, who also suffers from an underlying respiratory aliment, reportedly was in stable condition. The H1N1 virus, commonly known as "swine flu," is expected to be a complicating factor in the child's recovery, according to local health officials.

Local health officials, citing privacy concerns, declined to identify the child or on which island the child lives.

There were four confirmed cases of H1N1 flu in San Juan County as of Nov. 2, county health officials said then. But Dr. Frank James, county health officer, said there could have been more cases; state health officials estimate that 95 percent of flu circulating in the state this year is H1N1.

Meanwhile, public health officials are awaiting test results to determine whether the H1N1 virus may have contributed to the death on Thursday of a 33-year-old San Juan Island woman. An autopsy has been performed at the request of County Coroner Randall Gaylord, because it was an unexpected death. An H1N1 test was conducted at the request of Dr. James, according to county Public Information Officer Stan Matthews, who's also a member of the county H1N1 task force. The woman reportedly had become ill recently.

Matthews said James requested the H1N1 test because swine flu is considered to be prevalent among the local population, and because the woman's death was "unexpected" and "unexplained." Results of the autopsy are expected in the next six weeks, while the H1N1 test results are expected sometime next week, he said.

As of Friday, 918 people in Washington state have been hospitalized with the H1N1 virus and 28 people have died, according to the state Department of Health.

Earlier this month, county health officials said they considered H1N1 flu "widespread" on San Juan Island because of school-absence rates; nearly one-third of the students at Friday Harbor High School were reported absent at the beginning of the month; the absentee rate at Friday Harbor Middle School was above 20 percent.

This week, 10 students were reported absent from the high school. Middle school absentee numbers were not immediately available. The elementary school is averaging 40 student absences a day — double the normal average — but the reason for those absences were not known.

Dr. James expects more cases to appear in the community after the number of flu-related absences in schools has peaked. He said earlier that that point appears to have been reached on San Juan Island, with Orcas and Lopez lagging not far behind.

STAY INFORMED:
-- Shipments of H1N1 vaccine have been arriving in smaller amounts than expected, but remain available to priority groups: Adults age 25-64 with chronic health problems (such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease); all children and young adults between the ages of 6 months and 25 years; pregnant women; caregivers of children younger than six months; and health care workers and emergency medical responders with direct patient care.

To make an appointment, call 378-4474, or visit SAN JUAN COUNTY WEB SITE.

— In San Juan County, H1N1 information is available via telephone by DIALING 2-1-1.

— For news from around the region, visit PNWLOCALNEWS.COM

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