ST. LUCIE COUNTY — St. Lucie County Health Department officials confirmed Thursday the county’s first death from H1N1 flu, commonly called the swine flu.
Jason Christopher Schenck, 23, of Port St. Lucie, died Tuesday at St. Lucie Medical Center from the H1N1 virus, his family said.
“He had more friends than I knew he had, and he was just a good kid. He was a good all around kid. He was very polite,” father Clifford Schenck said. “They’re (Jason’s friends) calling me and telling me that Jason was the only one they could talk to and they know he would listen.”
Schenck suffered from asthma his entire life, Clifford Schenck said. And that condition along with several bouts of pneumonia left scars on the young man’s lungs and made him susceptible to the virus, his father said.
Clifford Schenck said his son, who had been in the hospital since Aug. 15, became ill after attending a concert with friends in West Palm Beach. None of his friends have reported feeling sick, his father said.
“When we took him in on the 15th, when he got admitted, his fingers were turning purple and his toes from lack of oxygen,” Clifford Schenck said. “I don’t care if you’re 23 or 70 years old, you don’t need to go out with this because it eats you up.”
The public shouldn’t panic with the county’s first death from the swine flu but practice good hygiene skills, said Arlease Hall, St. Lucie County Health Department spokeswoman.
“It’s imperative that if you sneeze or cough, to do so in your sleeve and not in your hands,” she said. “Wash your hands, and if you are sick, please, just stay home.”
Known as swine flu, H1N1 is a unique strain of the influenza virus that emerged this spring first in Mexico and now is widespread throughout the United States.
“I can tell you, if someone has flu symptoms, it is almost certainly H1N1,” said Karlette Peck, epidemiologist for the St. Lucie County Health Department.
Symptoms include fever, chills, aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fatigue.
People most at-risk: pregnant women, infants and children and those with chronic health conditions, including morbid obesity.
People born before 1957 seem to have some immunity to the H1N1 strain.
Like any flu virus, H1N1 is spread person-to-person through droplets.
Staff writer Hillary Copsey and WPTV contributed to this report.
By Keona Gardner, TCPalm.com