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Wilmington woman's death believed to be caused by H1N1

A 22-year old Wilmington woman has died after a 10-day illness, believed to be H1N1. The health department won't confirm H1N1 as the cause of Allison Blackstone Sewell's death, but her obituary states the young woman passed away as a result of complications from the virus. New Hanover, Pender, and Brunswick counties have each seen at least one death from H1N1. Allison Kay Blackstone Sewell grew up in Wilmington. She was married and had a two-year old daughter. Her funeral is Thursday at Port City Community Church at 11 a.m. Allison's dad is a doctor at Cape Fear Pediatrics. He did not want to speak on camera today. He and his colleagues plan to open their office on Saturday to give Allison’s friends and family the H1N1 vaccination. Officials from the New Hanover County Health Department have vaccinated more than five thousand people since October. This doesn't include all the people who have gotten vaccinated at private doctor's offices. The heath department has extended its hours this week, to offer the seasonal and H1N1 vaccine to as many people as possible. They are taking appointments this week until 7 p.m. This Saturday, they will be open from 8:00 a.m. to noon. To make an appointment, call 798-6646. Right now, the health department is focusing on vaccinating the target population first. For more information, you can visit the following web sites.

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swine flue

Swine flu cases confirmed at Interlochen BY LINDSAY VANHULLE This is my Sister Rebekah Mason INTERLOCHEN -- Two high school students were diagnosed with the swine flu virus while attending a summer arts camp in Interlochen, bringing the number of cases in Grand Traverse County to five. The students -- a 17-year-old boy from Hong Kong and a 16-year-old girl from Wilmington, N.C. -- were tested in late June and early July, respectively, for an illness later confirmed to be the H1N1 influenza strain known as swine flu, school and county health officials said. It's unknown whether the teens became ill at Interlochen or acquired the disease at home, said Dr. Michael Collins, medical director for the Grand Traverse and Benzie-Leelanau health departments. The disease in Grand Traverse County was first confirmed in a 29-year-old woman in June, Collins said. Also testing positive were a 14-year-old and an 8-year-old. An Interlochen Center for the Arts spokesman said the two campers were isolated to prevent further spread of the disease, and that both are recovering. But the mother of the ill girl said the school hasn't done enough to notify parents. "All those kids are in very close quarters," said Mary Kay Mason, a registered nurse in North Carolina. Her daughter Rebekah, 16, is studying opera at the six-week camp, scheduled from June 20 to Aug. 2. She went back to the infirmary Tuesday with a fever, Mason said. "You need to shoot an e-mail out to the parents, give them the information that there is swine flu there and let them make the informed decision," Mason said. "To me, it's morally wrong to omit this." Rebekah first felt sick after about a week of camp and went to the on-campus infirmary with a fever of 103 degrees, her mother said. Mason insisted nurses test her daughter for swine flu. But she worries the school is down playing the illness because it has been milder than originally expected. That doesn't sit well with Mason, who is concerned about the strain's pandemic spread and the potential threat to students on campus with sensitive health needs. Rebekah plans to stay, but "let me make that decision as a parent," said Mason, who questioned if camp leaders are concerned parents might withdraw their children early. That's not the case, Interlochen spokesman Steve Hoffman said. Parents are notified if their children become ill, and the school shared the information with those who asked about swine flu, Hoffman said. A letter will be e-mailed this week to parents of all campers. "We're being told to treat this as we would the seasonal flu," he said, adding that the ill students are high school age and the cabins are cleaned daily. About 1,500 students in third through 12th grades from across the globe attend Interlochen's summer arts camp, where they study music, visual arts, creative writing, dance, theater and filmmaking. They stay in cabins that bunk 12 to 18 children. Boys and girls' cabins are separated by the M-137 highway. The number of students reporting flu-like symptoms is higher than in past years, but they are scattered throughout the campus and not concentrated in one or two cabins, Hoffman said. It's likely other students have had the virus, Collins said. But because it's being treated much like the seasonal flu, "there isn't a lot of point in testing people for it because we wouldn't do anything differently medically," he said. He added that tests are most necessary in the first instances of exposure. Because the virus's incubation period often lasts one to three days before symptoms appear, Collins said, people should continue to wash their hands frequently and cover their faces when coughing or sneezing. Three music students at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp near Muskegon tested positive for swine flu last month. Their illnesses canceled a concert tour in Europe.

Might not be Swine Flu

"The health department won't confirm H1N1" How is it that this is even a story when there is absolutely no evidence she has H1N1? The CDC has had how many days to confirm this? She was sick for 10 days, why is it so necessary to scare the public?

A story?

It takes time - and there is red tape in confirming H1N1 cases because it is a government agency - she had influenza A - she had gotten the seasonal flu shot but not the h1n1 one - and h1n1 is an influenza A strain - so process of elimination suggests it - and doctors have seen these same symptoms in other patients as well. Why is this a story? A healthy 22 year old woman died of the flu and it could have been prevented. I pray that other families don't have to endure this - I sat there while she fought - and suffered - for 10 days. The public should be scared because sometimes h1n1 is just a "bad flu" for people - and sometimes it is deadly. The effects of the shot are far less than the effects of the disease.


Dr. Blackstone is our children's pediatrician. Our heart goes out to him and his family during this very difficult time. They are in our thoughts and prayers.