Published Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009 | 12:56 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009 | 1:23 p.m.
The Southern Nevada Health District today reported that six new deaths have been linked to the H1N1 flu strain.
That brings the number of deaths in Clark County to 19 from the novel flu strain, also known as swine flu.
Eighteen of the deaths occurred in Las Vegas area residents. Another death was an upstate New York woman who was visiting Las Vegas and died in a local hospital.
The patients who died included a 22-year-old woman with underlying medical conditions, a 28-year-old woman with underlying medical conditions, a 44-year-old man with underlying medical conditions and a 40-year-old man with no underlying medical complaints.
Two additional deaths reported earlier in October include a 64-year-old woman with underlying medical conditions and a 50-year-old man, whose medical condition is unknown.
The number of laboratory-confirmed H1N1 flu cases continued to rise. A total of 854 confirmed H1N1 flu cases have been reported in Southern Nevada since the flu strain was identified in April, the health district said.
"Even though we know there will be deaths every flu season, any influenza-related death is always sad news," said chief health officer Dr. Lawrence Sands. "Due to an increase in influenza awareness this year the health district has seen an increase in testing and reporting by physicians, which has created a backlog for our staff."
Local health surveillance shows that H1N1 influenza is the primary strain circulating locally, a fact confirmed by Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sands and Frieden emphasized that millions of people have contracted the flu virus through spring, summer and fall months and most of them recover with few problems.
The Southern Nevada Health District is also reporting continuing hospitalizations as the result of the H1N1 virus.
UNLV students have already reported flu-like symptoms. Since Sept. 24 of this year, 1,766 visits have been made to the university's student health center, with 66 reporting flu-like symptoms, roughly 3 percent of the total visits. Of the 66, 12 were tested for flu with rapid testing and eight returned positive for influenza, university officials said.
Since UNLV doesn't do subtype testing, it cannot confirm these cases were H1N1.
But Frieden, in a teleconference on Tuesday, said that the vast majority of confirmed flu cases are H1N1. The seasonal flu types have yet to appear in the United States, he said.
At UNLV, the student health center is urging students to follow the Center for Disease Control guidelines for preventing the illness, including staying isolated if symptoms appear, covering coughs and sneezes and washing hands thoroughly. The center also offers flu kits with mask, sanitizer and further prevention information.