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Three-year-old Nassau girl dies of H1N1 flu

A Nassau County child has died of H1N1 flu - the first death on Long Island so far this fall and the second pediatric swine flu death in the county since July, health officials said Wednesday.

The child is described only as a 3-year-old girl whose town and other identifying characteristics are being withheld for privacy reasons, explained Mary Ellen Laurain, spokeswoman for the Nassau County Health Department. "At this point we are not aware of any underlying medical conditions," Laurain said Wednesday.

The child is one of 19 children statewide to have died since the pandemic began in the spring. Pediatric deaths have helped define the pandemic as one taking its toll on the young, a reversal from what is seen with seasonal flu, which tends to more severely affect the elderly. There has been one death in Suffolk County of a young person described only as having been between the ages of 15 and 21.

Laurain said the 3-year-old is the fifth Nassau County resident of any age to die of H1N1 flu. "Our public health message is that the single best way to prevent H1N1 influenza is to be vaccinated - and vaccine is available," Laurain said. Pregnant women, babies and young people between the ages of 6 months and 24 years are in the priority groups targeted for the vaccine.

The latest national pediatric mortality data were released last Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which showed 21 more pediatric deaths due to the swine flu had been tallied during the week ending Nov. 14, the most recent date for complete statistics. Those deaths brought the total to 171 children and teens nationwide who've died of swine flu since April. New mortality data are expected next week.

Yesterday, Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's center for immunization and respiratory diseases, said there has been an increase in the number of swine flu infections complicated by pneumococcal pneumonia, which in some cases, can prove fatal. Pneumococci are bacteria that can invade the lungs and bloodstream.

Children and young adults with H1N1 have been particularly vulnerable to pneumococcal infections. "Flu infections can increase the risk of pneumococcal disease," Schuchat said during a news briefing. Nassau County health officials did not say whether the 3-year-old who died was co-infected with pneumococcus.

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