Unidentified Fifth Person In State Dies Of Swine Flu

August 08, 2009|By Kelly Brewington | Kelly Brewington,kelly.brewington@baltsun.com

A fifth person has died of swine flu in Maryland, state health officials said Friday.

The person was an adult from the Washington suburbs who had an underlying medical condition, officials said. As with other deaths from the H1N1 virus, officials would not release the person's name, gender or hometown. Since the outbreak this spring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 436 deaths and 6,506 hospitalizations nationwide stemming from the virus. The agency has stopped keeping track of cases that don't result in deaths or hospital stays as the pandemic continues to spread.

Also Friday, CDC advised that most schools should stay open even if outbreaks ramp up this fall. The decision to close schools should be made by local officials, who should weigh the safety risks with the possibility of disrupting education and creating logistical problems for families, the agency said in its guidance to school districts. People who become sick should stay home until their fevers have been gone for at least 24 hours. Tthe CDC encouraged good hygiene such as frequent hand washing to stem the spread of the virus.

The guidance is a shift from recommendations earlier this year, when schools were ordered to close for two weeks for even a probable swine flu case. The new CDC guidance makes exceptions in schools with children with underlying medical conditions that might keep them at higher risk.

State health officials cautioned that while the virus remains mild in most cases, it is responsible for a range of illness, including death. The federal government has pushed the development of a vaccine for this new flu as infections disease experts fear the virus could mutate into a deadlier version this fall.

Testing of the vaccine on adults is slated to begin on Monday at the University of Maryland's Center for Vaccine Development, one of nine centers nationwide that will test the vaccine on adults in children, in anticipation of what could be a mass vaccination campaign to start in mid-October.

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