H1N1 suspected in death of woman, 26

June 11, 2009 Currently, state health officials continue to test for the virus and are now looking into the death of a Chicago woman this week. But, Thursday, officials with the Illinois Department of Public Health still will not say why they suspect the H1N1 virus is a factor in her death.

In the meantime, the federal government is taking steps to authorize the development of a new vaccine -- as the World Health Organization declares the novel virus a pandemic.

"The testing is being done at quite a number of labs in Illinois. the state lab is one of them. We're focusing mostly on hospitalized patients," said Dr. Craig Conover, Illinois Department of Public Health.

Conover is talking about what his office is doing to fight the spread of the H1N1 flu virus. It's a virus that has already claimed five lives and this week prompted state health officials to begin an investigation into the death of a Southwest Side woman.

The family of Edriana Ramirez says they never suspected that the H1N1 flu virus could have had anything to do with her death. The 26-year-old died early Tuesday morning after relatives say she had been ill for only about a week.

Concern remains high surrounding H1N1, especially now that the World Health Organization has declared it a pandemic. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the move would not change how they tackled the flu virus here.

"It's a strain of the flu virus which most people do have immunity, which is spreading from person to person around parts of the world," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC director.

There were three more H1N1 deaths reported in New York City -- including one child under the age of 2.

In Mexico, where the epidemic was first detected, although the outbreak peaked in April the number of cases has fallen to 30 from 300.

Mexico has confirmed 6,337 cases including 108 fatalities. Health experts here say the public should not panic, because the declaration doesn't mean the virus is getting deadlier.

"We're really making preps now for medical care, health care going into the summer and the flu season into the fall," said Dr. Conover.

So far Illinois has five confirmed deaths as a result of H1N1 and just over 1,900 cases in 22 counties.

Health officials say the rate of new cases in Illinois seem to be on the decline.

Still, fear has already gripped Argentina as thousands of people worried about the flu flooded hospitals. In Hong Kong the government ordered all kindergartens and primary schools closed for two weeks after a dozen students tested positive for the H1N1 flu virus.

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