Newsroom > DHHS News Release

July 15, 2009

Marla Augustine, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047 or

Sound bites from Dr. Joann Schaefer, the state’s Chief Medical Officer, will be available at


Nebraska Experiences First H1N1 Death

Lincoln —The first death of a Nebraska resident due to novel H1N1 influenza virus was reported Tuesday to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. The patient was a woman in her 50s who resided in Custer County. The woman had several chronic, underlying health conditions, such as heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Because of state statutes, the name and other details about the patient can’t be released.

“Her loss is a tragedy, and my condolences go out to her loved ones. Any death from influenza is profoundly sad,” said Dr. Joann Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer. “Unfortunately, from the beginning we knew there would be deaths from this illness in Nebraska, based on the fact that there have been deaths in other parts of the United States and in Mexico.”

“H1N1 can be a very serious illness, especially for those who have chronic health conditions, such as heart disease and asthma, or who have compromised immune systems,” she said. “From what is known nationally at this time it appears to be very serious for pregnant women and people who are obese.”

DHHS has had 264 cases of H1N1 reported in Nebraska. Thirteen people have been hospitalized.

H1N1 seems to be affecting the younger age groups in the U.S. and Nebraska, particularly those 5 to 24. In Nebraska, the average age is 20. Only 17 cases have been over 50.

DHHS is working with local health departments to investigate cases and contacts of people with the virus.

A health alert will be issued to physicians and other providers reminding them that all influenza being seen at this time is novel H1N1 and providing them with important information regarding the statistics, treatment and prevention.


Most people who get H1N1 recover on their own without additional treatment. If you are only mildly ill, you don’t need to seek treatment.

If you are moderately to severely ill with a cough or sore throat and a fever over 100 degrees, particularly if you have underlying medical conditions, call your physician. It is clear from our data that this virus is within the community, meaning most cases have no travel history or identified source of exposure. A physician may prescribe an antiviral, which can lessen the symptoms and possibly shorten the duration of your illness. People who are sick should stay home from work or school.

Additional symptoms of H1N1 are body aches and sometimes may include vomiting and diarrhea.

“Again we urge the public to be vigilant. We have had an increase in cases. We expect this to continue. We will remain vigilant in our surveillance, along with the CDC, for antiviral resistance or mutation of this virus,” Dr. Schaefer said.

Precautions to take to avoid getting the flu or avoid giving it to others:

  • Wash hands frequently or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are coughing or otherwise appear ill.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.

For more information, including a map and listing of cases by county, see the DHHS Web site: For a list of local health departments visit this web site: