Officials say it took a week to confirm H1N1 death

By Clarence Plank: Freedom New Mexico

The New Mexico Department of Health waited a week to disclose a Roosevelt County baby died of the H1N1 virus because it took that long to confirm through testing, a department spokesman said Friday.

Chris Minnick, regional public information officer for the agency, said the baby girl died Sept. 24 from the virus also called swine flu. Minnick said his department announced the cause of death Thursday, as soon as it was confirmed by scientific testing.

The state health department isn’t releasing the girl’s identity, citing privacy laws.

“We know that it was H1N1 related because the infant didn’t have any chronic health conditions,” Minnick said. “We do a lab test for confirmation, we do a culture.”

Minnick said the department has been working with local health departments in Roosevelt and Curry counties to develop emergency plans in the event the virus spreads, as many state, national and international experts fear it might. Emergency Management agencies in the two counties say they have also developed plans in the event the virus continues to spread.

Thus far, the bulk of regional swine flu cases appear to be concentrated in Roosevelt County.

Eastern New Mexico University health officials report one confirmed case and 10 suspected cases on campus. None has proven fatal.

Roosevelt County Emergency Management Director Keith Wattenberger said Curry and Roosevelt County officials have been working together for months to plan for a possible swine flu pandemic, but so far, numbers of cases have not escalated beyond those of a regular flu season.

Statewide, seven deaths have now been attributed to complications from swine flu.

The other victims include:

• 5-year-old Sandoval County girl

• a 45-year-old Sierra County woman with liver disease

• a 52-year-old man from Bernalillo County with chronic pulmonary disease

• a 48-year-old woman from McKinley with asthma and diabetes

• a 21-year-old woman from Los Alamos County without chronic medical conditions

• 58-year-old Bernalillo County man with unspecified chronic medical conditions.

Minnick said a vaccine is not ready for the public, but should be available later this month as the flu season starts into full swing. High risk groups will be given the vaccine first, he said.

Minnick identified high risk groups are pregnant women, household members and caretakers of infants less than 6 months old, children 6 to 50 months of age, children 5 to 18 years with certain chronic health conditions, health care workers and emergency medical service personal in direct patient care.

For information about scheduled flu shot clinics:

• Call Nurse Advice New Mexico toll-free at 866-681-5872

• Online at www.nmivc/cliniclist.php.

• Contact information for public health offices is also online at www.nmhealth.org