HONOLULU (KHNL)- The State Department of Health confirms Hawaii's first swine flu fatality. The H1N1 virus was linked to a woman in her late 60s, who died at Tripler Army Medical Center June 19th.
Health officials say while the victim suffered from other serious conditions, the H1N1 virus did contribute to her death.
It's a sad but serious reminder of the flu's force.
"It's really just a wakeup call. It was a quick demise. Flu was a contributing factor, the patient themselves was already in a quite precarious state" said Disease Outbreak Control Division Chief Dr. Sarah Park.
Although it wasn't the primary cause, this is still considered a swine flu death because it contributed to her condition. Since May, Hawaii has confirmed almost 550- H1N1 virus cases, which includes an outbreak of about 20 Molokai firefighters.
Throughout the state, all but three have or are recovering at home. One is currently hospitalized on Oahu, a second Maui patient was hospitalized and is now at home, and the third is the tragic case at Tripler. Whether seasonal or this novel strain, officials stand ready.
"We've shifted our focus to ask the question, when is it going to change to something really serious," said Dr. Park.
The best advice, don't panic, be prepared. Stay at home if you're sick and cover your coughs and sneezes. Also, eat right and exercise. These are all simple things we should be doing anyway.