MANATEE - A 27-year-old Manatee woman who contracted swine flu is the first person in the county to die from the illness, according to the Manatee County Health Department.
The woman, who was not identified, had underlying medical conditions that put her at greater risk of complications from flu, according to health officials.
"We offer our sincere condolences to this individual's family and friends for their loss," said Dr. Jennifer Bencie, administrator for the Manatee County Health Department.
At least three Sarasota County residents have died from swine flu.
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Swine flu is considered "widespread" in Manatee, said Manatee County Health Department epidemiologist Ron Cox.
And 98 percent of the flu cases in Manatee are swine flu, Cox said. Cox said health officials across the state have stopped counting cases of swine flu because it has become so widespread.
“Right now if you get the flu in Manatee, it is most likely swine flu,” Cox said.
The only upside to the swine flu outbreak is that it is not as deadly as the normal seasonal flu that people catch every year.
“There is a better chance of dying from the seasonal flu than from swine flu,” Cox said.
There is no vaccine currently available for swine flu, and a seasonal flu shot will not prevent it. The swine flu vaccine is expected to be available in mid-October, Cox said.
People with underlying medical conditions, pregnant women, the elderly and the very young are the most susceptible to swine fu, and will be offered vaccinations first. Then the vaccine will be available to the general public.
While most cases of H1N1 swine flu are mild, there are exceptions. Pre-existing health conditions often play a role in how individuals react to the flu, according to the health department. Some people are at higher risk for complications from the virus and are strongly encouraged to call their health care providers if they experience flu-like symptoms. These include people with underlying chronic health conditions, pregnant women, the elderly and the very young.
The Florida Department of Health has a toll-free number to provide public health information and updates on H1N1 swine flu. The information line is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EDT, seven days a week. Information is available in English, Spanish and Creole. Call 877-352-3581. Up-to-date information on the H1N1 flu and what you can do can be found at www.MyFluSafety.com