An adolescent girl died from a probable case of the H1N1 virus in Santa Barbara Saturday, marking the first death from swine flu in the county.
The deceased had been ill for some weeks and was suffering from several other illnesses in addition to the H1N1 virus, including pneumonia and a blood infection. While the case cannot be confirmed as swine flu until a state laboratory examines a specimen from the girl, a county test found she was infected with an influenza virus appearing to be the H1N1 virus.
Santa Barbara County Public Health Dept. Officer Susan Klein-Rothschild said persons sick with influenza often contract other illnesses, compounding their health issues.
“She did have pneumonia and sepsis, which is a blood infection, so those are both factors related to the fatality,” Klein-Rothschild said. “And pneumonia is a common thing for someone who has something like influenza.”
The girl had been hospitalized since before Sept. 18, when she was transferred to the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital from another county hospital.
While the young girl was the first to die from the virulent new strain of influenza in the county, numerous other residents have been hospitalized with probable H1N1 cases. Klein-Rothschild, however, said many more cases of the virus have gone unreported.
“We don’t know how many people have it because a lot of people aren’t getting the formal diagnosis,” Klein-Rothschild said. “We know we have at least 22 hospitalizations in the county [due to swine flu.]”
The United States Center for Disease Control shows the virus is still widespread throughout the country. An estimated 1,379 people have died from the swine flu in the United States since its outbreak earlier this year.
A vaccine for the H1N1 flu is expected to be available in late October.