SEATTLE – Washington state health officials say a man in his 30s is the first person in the state to die from what appears to be complications of swine flu.
It has been blamed for killing 48 in Mexico, three in the United States and one each in Canada and Costa Rica.
The state Department of Health said in a news release Saturday that the man from Snohomish County, north of Seattle, had underlying heart conditions and viral pneumonia at the time of his death May 6, but that he also had swine flu and it is considered a factor in the death.
“This death is tragic. Our thoughts are with all those affected by this man’s passing,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire. “It’s a sobering reminder that influenza is serious, and can be fatal.”
Officials declined to identify the man further.
He began showing symptoms on April 30, and was treated with anti-viral medication. Dr. Gary Goldbaum, Snohomish Health District medical director, said medical officials hadn’t been able to isolate any “risk factors” for the man to identify where he might have been exposed.
The death is the third swine flu-related fatality reported in the United States. The other two were in Texas: a Mexican toddler and a pregnant woman. As with the Washington state victim, each suffered from other illnesses when they were infected with the virus.
Health officials cautioned that the number of cases of swine flu in Washington are expected to continue rising for some time, and urged people to continue to practice preventive measures, such as frequent hand-washing.
“We’re working with local and federal partners to track this outbreak,” said Secretary of Health Mary Selecky, “and while most illnesses from this new flu strain have been fairly mild, we must remember that influenza claims about 36,000 lives every year nationwide. That’s why we urge people to take this outbreak, and the seasonal flu we see every year, very seriously.”
Health officials said earlier Saturday that an additional 18 cases of swine flu have been confirmed in Washington, bringing the state’s total to 101.
The state Department of Health said Saturday that another 19 cases are considered probable for swine flu.
As of Saturday, 70 cases were confirmed in King County; 18 were confirmed in Snohomish County; five in Pierce County; two each in Spokane, Whatcom and Clark counties; and one each in Thurston and Skagit counties.
The probable cases are in King County, 10, and Snohomish County, nine.