First confirmed H1N1 death in Florida

By Al Pefley - email

PALM BEACH GARDENDS, FL (WFLX) - H1N1 has claimed its first victim in Florida.  It's a 9-year-old boy from Miami-Dade County. He died just 24 hours after showing symptoms of the virus.

With this news  parents are watching their children a little more closely.

At the Peter Pan Preschool, the news that H1N1 has claimed a youngster's life in Florida has made them even more vigilant, watching the kids more carefully  than ever before for any signs of sickness. Some say they felt it was only a matter of time. H1N1 has killed others around the world and across the country, so it's no surprise that the sickness would now claim a life in our state.

"We don't know the circumstances behind this death. We just have the information that they did have the H1N1 swine flu virus," said Tim O'Connor with the Palm Beach County Health Department.

Experts say the Miami-Dade  boy who died had asthma, but it's not clear yet if that might've contributed to his death.

Nationally, there have been about 45 deaths due to H1N1 in the United States. And authorities say the fact that Florida now has a confirmed H1N1 death is no reason to panic.

"It has been a relatively mild strain. That's what we're seeing. It's not nearly as severe as even the regular flu as we see in the flu season," O'Connor said.

So what should you do now that there's been a swine flu death in our state?

"People need to be aware of their health status of course. If they have a fever and sore throat, exhibiting these flu signs or symptoms, they need to contact their physician," O'Connor said.

At Peter Pan preschool, when the teachers aren't teaching, you might find them disinfecting the cots the kids sleep on, and also cleansing all the door knobs and toys with a germ-killing spray.

They also make sure the children wash their hands, as a precaution to protect them from H1N1. And they sing a little song, to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat as they do it.

"Wash, wash , wash your hands, wash the germs away.  Rub and rub and rub and scrub, germs go down the drain," sang Rylee Peel, 4, as she washed her hands at the preschool.

Even little ones like this 4 year old, know why they've got to keep their hands clean.

"Because you'll get swine flu,"  Rylee explained.

The school says they watch each child carefully for any signs of illness, and the fact that a child in Miami-Dade County has died due to H1N1 means they'll try to be even more alert to flu symptoms.

"I wasn't expecting a child to pass from this and it's very sad," said Caitlin Brady, a teacher.

"You know, it's horrible. You want to make sure that they're all keeping their hands washed. As soon as they come in we ask that they wash their hands. If we go outside we wash their hands. Anybody that comes and goes, we just make sure they wash their hands," said Peggy Peel, another Peter Pan teacher.

Parents say they're not panicking, and don't see the need to isolate their kids from other youngsters due to the fact that a child in Florida has died from the H1N1 virus.

We found one woman picking up her two and a half year old daughter Danielle at preschool.

"I don't think she's any more at risk now than maybe a month ago. She's had a flu shot. Although I know this is a new strain, we just try to keep her hands clean," said parent Amber Murray.

"It is scary to think about what can I do to protect them and how can I make sure that they're healthy," said Claudia Thomason,  a mother from West Palm Beach who has two small boys at the preschool.