The November 6 death of Conner Woodruff, a 12 year old student of Robert Gray Elementary School, has been linked to the H1N1 (swine) flu virus. County public health officials were notified of the positive test result Friday afternoon.
“This is a tragic death. Our thoughts are with Conner’s family and friends,” said Joan Brewster, Director of the Grays Harbor County Health Department.
“Conner died from a very uncommon complication of the flu in which the heart muscle becomes inflamed,” reports Dr. John Bausher, the Grays Harbor County Health Officer. “This is a rare event that is associated with many different kinds of viral illness such as measles, chickenpox, mumps, and influenza (flu). When it happens, it is heartbreaking.”
Conner’s death is the first in Grays Harbor County to be attributed to the swine flu virus. Public health and school officials are working together with Conner’s family to address parent, student, and staff concerns.
“Swine flu activity is widespread in the county,” Bausher said. “Virtually every school in the county has likely had infected children. It is important to remember that most people who get swine flu get well in 4-7 days without problems. Conner’s death should not be seen as an indication of increased risk in the community, but as a very sad fact of viral illnesses.”
The Health Department began providing swine flu immunizations in schools in late October as vaccine supplies have allowed. “Vaccine is one tool that we have to reduce the spread of the flu and limit the number of cases. That will help limit the number of people who become ill and are at risk of complications,” says Brewster. “We are working to get the doses of vaccine that we have available to us administered in schools and delivered to local health care providers as quickly as possible. That effort will continue until the vaccine is easily available to whoever wants it.”
Vaccination can be an effective tool to fight the flu, but doesn’t take the place of practicing good “health manners.” If you are sick with a fever, stay home from work or school until the fever has been gone for 24 hours or more. Cover coughs and sneezes with the inside of your elbow. Wash your hands often, especially before eating or preparing food or touching your eyes nose or mouth, and after coughing sneezing, blowing your nose, or using the restroom.
The Aberdeen School District is hosting a meeting for parents of Robert Gray students at 6 pm on Tuesday at the Robert Gray gymnasium. Public health officials will be on hand to answer questions for parents. For continually updated information on swine flu, see the health department’s website: www.HealthyGH.org