Local swine flu death toll at 9

HOUSTON [SWINE FLU: Symptoms, questions and answers and more]

That makes 76 swine flu fatalities since April. About 30 percent of them had pre-existing medical conditions. That number is higher than the 68 pediatric deaths from the regular 'seasonal' flu over the course of a whole year.

There have been nine swine-flu related deaths in our viewing area since April. All but one of those have been adults.

In a report by the American Medical Association to be published next month, doctors are giving more information about the fatal complications associated with the flu, including severely low levels of oxygen in the blood and multi-system organ failure.

Dr. Teresa Long with the Columbus, Ohio Public Health Comm. said, "Why children may be, and clearly are, at greater risk is because their immune systems haven't had an opportunity to respond to this kind of virus before."

The report also warns that hospitals may not be ready for these patients, noting they will require prolonged mechanical ventilation and frequent use of rescue therapies.

Local doctors have been seeing some of the same critical problems with swine flu patients. The swine flu is the first flu virus Houston doctors have ever seen to cause heart failure. That has happened three times in the past week in Houston.

Three patients hospitalized with swine flu at St. Luke's Hospital went into heart failure, among them a teenager and a pregnant woman. Doctors delivered the woman's baby early and they believe the baby is OK, but she's in critical condition.

Several of the swine flu heart patients got a heart pump in an effort to save them. Despite everything, one swine flu patient died of heart failure within 24 hours of coming to the hospital.

Texas Heart Institute cardiologist Dr. Reynolds Delgado said, "First it affects the lungs. You see a pneumonia first. That's the first presentation. But then quickly with these three patients we've seen heart failure develop which is very, very concerning, because usually viruses like this don't cause heart failure."

Houston doctors are worried because they believe this is just the beginning of these flu-heart complications. They are warning people in the high risk groups to get the swine flu vaccine. They say don't be afraid to give your children both a swine flu shot and a seasonal flu shot at the same time. That's because the vaccine in the flu shots is a killed vaccine.

The nasal spray vaccines use a live virus and experts recommend not giving them at the same time.

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