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First swine flu death reported in Merced County

Merced County's first death from the swine flu has been reported by the Merced County Department of Public Health.

The death was an adult female, whose name was not released, who had underlying chronic medical conditions, according to Richard Rios, program manager for the health department.

The woman lived in Merced, but died out of the county in an unnamed hospital, Rios said. The county would not release any other information on the woman.

According to the county’s website on the swine flu, there had been a total of 27 confirmed cases of the flu before this death was reported. The average age of victims of the flu in Merced is 22 years, with no deaths of people over the age of 65. Rios said that there have been 104 deaths in the state from the swine flu, and a total of 1,057 hospitalizations. He estimated that there have been more than one million cases in the United States.

Dr. Timothy Livermore, the county health officer, said that flu cases this time of the year are rare, and most people who have the flu now would more than likely have the swine flu.

“We are seeing this flu during the months that we normally don’t see it,” Livermore said. “It’s the dominant virus around.”Rios said that the county is preparing for a more serious pandemic outbreak of the flu once the cooler seasons come along. But public health departments across the country are now focusing on people who are hospitalized or die for testing.

“We are not promoting testing outside of those parameters,” Rios said.Livermore said that the swine flu has been spreading throughout the world, with dozens of American soldiers in Iraq testing positive for the flu.“It’s been reaching new countries,” Livermore said. “People in general are not immune from this virus.”

The federal government is working on a vaccine for the swine flu, Livermore said. He added that there will be a vaccine for the regular flu and a different one for the swine flu.

Livermore also said that if a person believes they have the swine flu, they should contact their doctor but not go into the doctor’s office unless told to.

“They might infect other people, but the doctor needs to know what the symptoms are and if followup care is needed,” Livermore said.

Two people have died from the swine flu in Stanislaus County, a 37-year-old man who died at a hospital on Monday, and a 21-year-old woman from Ceres on July 1.

The best way to avoid the flu is still to wash hands as much as possible, according to the county’s health department.The swine flu has started to spread just as school is ready to start, and the county wants people to be aware of the spread.

“We are letting people know about this because it’s a tragedy, and the flu can kill people,” Livermore said.

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or creiter@mercedsun-star.com

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