SOMERSET — The Lake Cumberland region has recorded its first death blamed on the H1N1 flu virus. The death on Thursday of a 28-year-old man is the eighth confirmed in Kentucky.
The man died at Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital in Somerset. Health officials did not release his name or details about his hospitalization.
The man had no apparent underlying medical conditions, according to a news release from Lake Cumberland District Health Department.
"We are truly saddened that the flu has taken the life of this young man," Sheryl Glasscock, chief nursing officer at the hospital, said in a news release.
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The Somerset hospital had moved to limit visitation just a week ago in an effort to limit exposure of patients, staff and visitors. No one younger than 18 is allowed to enter the hospital unless seeking care, and people entering the emergency room with flu-like symptoms are kept apart from other patients.
In the wake of the death, and with the expectation that the flu will spread, the hospital tightened its restrictions further. Patients and visitors can come in only through the emergency room and one other door. Hospital employees will screen people at each entrance to see whether they have flu-like symptoms or have been exposed to the flu. If so, they won't be allowed in, according to a news release.
"Taking these precautions is for the protection of not only our visitors but also our patients and staff," Glasscock said. "It will help limit their exposure to the flu, as well as help curtail the spread throughout the community."
The flu death in Somerset came on the eve of the first opportunity for some area residents to get the H1N1 vaccine.
The 10-county district health department, which had doses left over after providing the vaccine for health-care workers, distributed it at clinics in each county Saturday.
It was the first general availability of the H1N1 vaccine to the public in the state.
Clinic workers gave about 1,600 doses of the H1N1 vaccine by nasal mist or shot in the 10-county district, but no county ran out, said Amy Tomlinson, public health services coordinator for the district health department.
"It's gone very smoothly," Tomlinson said.
The clinics limited distribution of the H1N1 mist to target groups, including people ages 2 to 49 with no health problems and people 49 and younger who care for children younger than six months old.
Some people who asked for the mist didn't get it because they weren't in the target groups.
Some people have reservations about taking the H1N1 mist because it contains a live, weakened form of the virus, and that might have held down demand for it. The demand might be higher when H1N1 shots become more widely available, Tomlinson said.
The shots don't contain live virus. Pregnant women and people who have health conditions including asthma and diabetes can take the shots but not the mist.
Tomlinson said officials will decide Monday how to distribute the rest of the H1N1 vaccine in the Lake Cumberland district. The department will get regular shipments of the vaccine so there will be more opportunities to get it, she said.
People can check availability of the H1N1 vaccine in the area on the district health department's Web site, www.lcdhd.org.
Demand for seasonal flu shots was high at the Somerset clinic. There were people lined up when Tomlinson arrived 90 minutes before the clinic was scheduled to start, she said.
One reason apparently is that some local doctors and pharmacies have run out of seasonal flu shots.
"I think there is a fear because there is a shortage that's been reported," said Natalie True, spokeswoman for the Pulaski County Health Department.
The health department ran out of the seasonal shots Saturday and won't be getting more, True said.