H1N1 Kills 6 People, Leaves 14 Critically Ill in Greater Houston Area

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HOUSTON Health officials say there have been six confirmed deaths from H1N1 in the Houston area recently, KHOU 11 News confirmed Thursday afternoon. That includes the four deaths at Conroe Regional Medical Center.

At least 14 people have become critically ill in Harris, Montgomery and Jefferson counties, including the four patients at Conroe Regional Medical Center.

This is the same strain of H1N1 that caused a pandemic in 2009. Doctors have been seeing hundreds of new cases recently in Texas and nationwide. In fact, H1N1 is one of the viruses included in this year’s flu shot.

Health officials from all over the region spent Thursday afternoon in a conference call comparing notes about all the cases. They suspect that all of the cases at the Conroe Regional Medical Center are H1N1, or what used to be called the “swine flu.”

Officials in Montgomery County, which is where this all started, are meeting to formulate further plans.

All the jurisdictions in the region are working together to create a profile of these cases, so doctors know what to look out for. That will be shared with the Centers for Disease Control and the Texas Department of Health.

The CDC has already offered assistance on this cluster of cases. The illnesses started with flu-like symptoms, then progressed to pneumonia and, in some cases, organ failure. All of the patients initially tested negative for the flu.

News about the illness has people packing into doctors offices and clinics.

At the Conroe Urgent Care Clinic Thursday, at least 18 patients came in with flu-like symptoms.

“We’re testing at least five to seven people positive for H1N1 [daily] as opposed to October when we hardly had any," said Physician Assistant Derrick Goodwill.

The commonly used RAPID flu test is not very reliable.

“The recommendation right now is to give Tamiflu to patients even if they don’t test positive,” Goodwill said.

That is also why Montgomery County health officials now plan to use a more reliable, but costly and time-consuming test on those patients sick from the ‘mystery’ bug and those who died from it.