A Hastings woman said her 11-year-old son died after a swine flu infection led to a fatal case of pneumonia, which if confirmed would make him the 11th person in Minnesota to die from the outbreak.
Oliver Finley, who had cerebral palsy and other physical and mental disabilities, died on Saturday after being diagnosed with a swine flu infection, his mother told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
"It's just really hard to walk past his room and not have him there," Nancy Finley said.
A telephone number for Finley could not immediately be found. A message left for her at her son's middle school wasn't immediately returned Friday.
The state health department hasn't confirmed that the boy's death was tied to swine flu, spokesman Doug Schultz said. The death was relatively recent, and it takes time to draw a link, he said.
"It may show up in a future report," Schultz said, adding that he couldn't comment on specific cases.
The official death toll from the swine flu virus in Minnesota is up to 10. At least eight had underlying conditions ranging from asthma and obesity to immune and neuromuscular disorders.
One person, a 5-week-old boy who died Oct. 15, had critical heart and lung ailments, his grandmother said.
William Anton Cech was born with a number of medical issues including a condition that left half his heart underdeveloped, Addie Rust told the Albert Lea Tribune.
"If he had gotten a rotten cold, I'm sure that would have been tough for him, too. H1N1 isn't what killed him," she said, using the scientific term for the swine flu virus.
The H1N1 strain remains the dominate type of flu circulating in the state. Recent flu statistics indicate 380 people were hospitalized with the flu since Sept. 1, and all but one had the swine flu.
Children ages 5 to 18 have been the hardest-hit age group, followed by adults 25 to 49. It's a trend that has held steady since the department began publishing flu statistics this year.
"We are in what I would call an acceleration phase," state epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said Thursday afternoon. "We are getting a huge number of reports of influenza-like illness throughout the state."
Fortunately, she said, the virus isn't getting more dangerous and most people who get infected recover after a few days. However, children, pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions - including asthma and obesity - remain particularly vulnerable, Lynfield said.
"This virus is spread extremely easily," she said. "We really, really need to reinforce that message of 'Stay home when you're sick.' You may not be very sick, but there are people out there who are at risk for severe illness."
Health officials said vaccination remains the best protection against the virus, but the vaccine still isn't available to the general public in the state.
State health officials learned Thursday the state would get another 40,000 doses on top of 170,000 that had already been allocated, but department spokesman Buddy Ferguson said the new allocation, like the previous one, would go to health care professionals and the state's most at-risk patients.
On the Net: Minnesota Department of Health, flu site
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)