Every once in a while I get a call or e-mail with sad news: someone has died of complications from the flu.
Lately, with the heightened awareness of the H1N1 virus, I’ve heard of a couple of deaths related specifically to H1N1. In some cases the deceased was perfectly healthy before becoming ill. The stories are heartbreaking.
Unfortunately, death is a reality of the flu. Thousands die every year.
The Virginia Department of Health does not track the number of flu deaths in the state.
“Flu deaths are not required to be reported to VDH, so we do not have state info, only national estimates,” said spokesman Robert Parker.
And while some people have told me that their loved one’s death certificate has the cause of death as H1N1, Parker told me that “H1N1 is not typically reported on a death certificate.”
The state does track the number of kids who die from the flu. This year the state has recorded four pediatric flu deaths, Parker said.
The CDC reports that an estimated 12,000 Americans died during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. In contrast to seasonal flu, nearly 90 percent of the deaths occurred among people younger than 65 years of age.
According to the CDC, estimates of flu-associated deaths range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.
This year H1N1 is being tracked as part of the regular seasonal flu. The virus was included in the flu vaccine to help protect people from getting it. Flu season peaked in February, according to the CDC and VDH.