Swine flu is suspected of killing an otherwise healthy Spokane woman in her 50s.
Her death, announced Monday by the Spokane Regional Health District, is the fourth of a Spokane County resident connected to the aggressive virus also known as H1N1 influenza.
Two others — a woman visiting Spokane and a baby flown to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center from Franklin County as a last resort — have died in the county.
Also on Monday, the Panhandle Health District confirmed the death of a North Idaho resident who had contracted the swine flu. The Post Falls man in his 50s died within the past two weeks, making him the first swine flu death in Idaho’s five northern counties.
What was thought to be the first case, the widely publicized death of a Post Falls youth sports coach in his 30s, turned out not to be swine flu, said Panhandle Health spokeswoman Cynthia Taggart. Health officials are still trying to determine how that man died, she said.
In the case announced Monday, the man lived alone and was unattended when he died, Taggart said. Health officials are still awaiting results that will tell whether he had underlying health conditions.
Thousands of area residents have contracted the virus since it was first discovered in Mexico last spring. Most people have had mild cases and recovered at home.
However the virus has been unpredictable and is especially tough on children, young adults and people with underlying health conditions.
Doctors have called it a “young person’s disease,” a departure from the better-understood strains of seasonal flu, which has been diagnosed for the first time this fall in a pair of Spokane residents.
The arrival of seasonal flu threatens to further complicate the ongoing struggle against the swine flu pandemic. It’s rare to have a two-fisted flu attack, health officials say. The result has been busy hospitals and clinics, and simultaneous vaccination campaigns that have been challenged with supply shortages.