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H1N1 First Responder Death In Western Pennsylvania
Recombinomics Commentary 17:40
February 22, 2011

David Sechrist's battle with H1N1 began with mild cold symptoms, according to his father. Within just 36 hours, David Sechrist was so ill he was placed in intensive care in a Pittsburgh hospital.

As a paramedic and dispatcher with a Fayette County ambulance service, David P. Sechrist dedicated his life to helping others.

The 30-year-old Vanderbilt man died Saturday of complications from the H1N1 flu, according to his family.

"H1N1 is a big misconception at this point. Even at the hospital, they said they hadn't seen H1N1 in months."

Flu activity is statewide, but the department noted "significant increases were reported in the southwestern regions."

The above comments note the fatal infection of an EMS worker (30M) in southwestern Pennsylvania (Fayette County which is just southeast of Allegheny County and metropolitan Pittsburgh.  A close reading of the Pennsylvania Department of Health weekly report shows a spike in H1N1 in Allegheny County, but since only a small fraction of the influenza A samples are sero-typed, the reported 46 cases (week 6) is small relative to the 373 influenza A cases.  However, the number of H1N1 cases is markedly higher than the 6 cases reported two weeks ago (week 4), signaling a recent sharp jump in H1N1 cases in Allegheny county.  Fayette county only show 1 H1N1 cases, which is likely due to a lack of sero-typing, since Fayette is reporting 113 influenza A cases.

Monitoring these events is difficult because the Pennsylvania website does not have an archive, and the active link only shows the most recent week.  In addition to not having the data for prior weeks, the website has not updated hospitalized cases since week 2.  Thus, the true extent of H1N1 cases in the state in general and western Pennsylvania in particular is difficult to appreciate because of access and testing limitations.

As noted above, even first responders who are constantly exposed to pathogens circulating in the community are unaware of the extent of H1N1, as are hospital workers, even though H1N1 levels are exploding in the area, and the Pneumonia and Influenza deaths in the United States (8.9%) are approaching a five year high (9.1%).

Agency efforts to “manage” influenza hospitalizations and deaths remain hazardous to the world’s health.  The EMS co-workers are now getting vaccinated because of the recent death.  However, the current vaccine has limited efficacy against the H1N1 currently circulating in western Pennsylvania and throughout the northern hemisphere.

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