For the first time a Nova Scotian has died from Influenza A (H1N1), also known as swine flu.
The victim’s name was not released, but provincial health officials say a woman in her 50’s who had underlying health issues passed away Friday morning.
Several media reports identified the woman as Annette Sampson, who worked at a nursing home in St. Peters, Cape Breton.
Health officials say the victim was admitted to hospital about two weeks earlier with a severe case of swine flu, but don’t know how much of a factor pre-existing health issues played in her death.
“This is not unexpected. We anticipated seeing severe cases and deaths and we anticipate that this will continue,” said Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer Dr. Robert Strang. “This sad event is a reminder to all of us the H1N1 pandemic in Nova Scotia is very serious and the outbreak is not over.”
Strang said the circumstances are not unusual for a death linked to influenza. He said medical staff continues to monitor the illness and the woman’s death will not change how they handle the disease.
“Unfortunately deaths linked to influenza are both common and expected each year,” Strang said. “About 4,000 Canadians have died with various strains of seasonal influenza.”
As of Friday, there have been 456 lab-confirmed cases of H1N1 but Strang said there are “many, many more.” So far the disease has acted like a normal seasonal flu in Nova Scotia and only 10 people have been hospitalized.
Strang emphasized prevention by washing hands early and often, sneezing into your arm and frequently cleaning common surfaces such as doorknobs.
“One of the most important steps is staying home if you have flu-like symptoms,” he said. “If you have those symptoms, please stay home for seven days. I can’t stress this enough.”