DHEC: SC records first death related to swine flu

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has recorded the state's first death associated with the H1N1 influenza, better known as swine flu.

Four months ago, swine flu and the H1N1 virus drew heavy public attention to Newberry Academy. The small private school made big news after more than a dozen students came down with the illness following a trip to Cancun.

DHEC says since then it has confirmed more than 500 cases statewide, but until now none of them had involved a fatality.

The agency says that situation changed last week. The victim was a Midlands child who'd been battling other health issues.

"In this particular case we sadly are having to announce that a child of a Midlands child who did already have some severe underlying conditions died from influenza, an H1N1 influenza-associated case," said DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley.

"Any time that you contract the flu, it's possible that it could be very mild," Beasley explained. "It could be severe. It could even require hospitalization. And today tragically what we're learning is it could also be deadly here in South Carolina."

DHEC is not providing specifics on the victim, meaning no age, gender, location or the type of illness that the child had been dealing with prior to contracting the virus. The reason for withholding that information is federal privacy laws.

Health officials say the first doses of H1N1 vaccine will hit South Carolina in mid- to late October.

"We expect the H1N1 influenza virus to re-emerge with a vengeance this fall," said Beasley. "We are on the lookout for it. We've been very closely monitoring any influenza-like illnesses that we've seen, that we see breaking out in South Carolina."

According to DHEC, over 500 cases of H1N1 have been confirmed since the disease was first reported in the state in April.

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