State: H1N1 is hitting children more

Published 9:30 am Friday, October 23, 2009

H1N1 appears to be hitting children disproportionately over others, said Doug Schultz, spokesoman with the Minnesota Department of Communications.

Because of this, parents of children who have underlying health conditions that can lead to complications should be contacting their providers and asking about the H1N1 vaccine, Schultz said.

Underlying health conditions include asthma, chronic lung and heart conditions, liver and kidney conditions, neurological and blood disorders.

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Other people who should seek the vaccine are pregnant women and people with immune problems, he said.

He said the state is trying diligently to get vaccine for those who have the highest risk.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Thursday reported three more Minnesota residents as dying from complications due to infection with the H1N1 novel influenza virus. They were a Martin County woman in her early sixties, a Steele County child under 7 years of age and a Freeborn County infant (see story at the top of this page). All died within the last two weeks and all had underlying health conditions. These cases bring to 10 the total Minnesota deaths related to the H1N1 outbreak since last April. There have been four in Iowa.

To date, MDH has received reports of 611 hospitalized cases of confirmed H1N1 novel influenza in Minnesota. In addition, 230 schools reported last week to MDH that they had either 5 percent of their student body absent or three students in an elementary school classroom absent due to flu-like illness.

“We continue to follow this pandemic closely, and although we are seeing widespread infection due to H1N1 influenza, we are not seeing a change in the severity of the disease. Most people recover without complications, but unfortunately some people, particularly those who are pregnant, those who are very young or elderly, or those who have underlying medical conditions, are at risk for more severe illness or complications,” said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist for MDH.

“This is why we urge people to help stop the spread of this virus by staying home when they are sick and covering their coughs and washing their hands and by getting vaccinated.”’s Text Alerts now has a new category for H1N1 updates. It features the ability to text message you whenever Tribune writers post any updates related to the H1N1 pandemic. Click here to sign up for Text Alerts or to add it to your existing Text Alerts service.

Getting vaccinated is the best protection against the virus. While the vaccine for H1N1 is not yet available for the general public, it is being provided to health care workers and some of the very highest risk pediatric patients and pregnant women. Priority groups will then include the remaining children and adults under 25 years, and those under 65 who have certain medical conditions; and following these groups anyone else who wishes vaccination. Vaccine shipments are expected to continue over the coming months.

Until vaccine is more widely available, it is important for people to continue to take steps to protect themselves and reduce the spread of influenza:

Stay home from work or school — and generally avoid going out in public — if you are sick. Remain home until 24 hours after your symptoms resolve without the aid of fever-reducing medications.

If you are an employer, encourage your employees to stay home if they are sick.

Limit your contact with others who may be ill.

 Cover your nose and mouth with your sleeve when you cough or sneeze.

Clean your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Clean your hands after shaking hands or having other close contact with other people, before eating or preparing food, or touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Make sure to take enough fluids while you’re sick.

If you develop possible flu symptoms and you want to consult your health care provider, call before going in for an office visit. You may not need to go in, and if you do need to be seen, a time should be set up when you will not risk exposing others to influenza in the waiting room.

People at risk for severe flu or flu complications should contact their health care provider promptly if they develop flu symptoms or have been closely exposed to people with flu symptoms to determine whether they should receive antiviral medication.

People who develop severe symptoms or who develop new symptoms after initial improvement should seek medical care without delay.

Get vaccinated for both seasonal and H1N1 novel influenza as soon as vaccine becomes available for you.

If you do have flu symptoms and want to speak with a nurse about your illness, call your health care provider or the Minnesota FluLine at (866) 259-4655.