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North Dakota reports first H1N1 death

FARGO -- As Cass and Clay county health officials announced on Monday their first public clinics to vaccinate area residents against the H1N1 flu virus, the North Dakota Health Department confirmed the first H1N1-related death in the state.

A northwestern North Dakota man older than 60 with underlying health problems is the first person in the state to die from the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu.

In order to protect the man's privacy, no further details were provided, state Epidemiologist Kirby Kruger said Monday.

Kruger said between 200 and 400 people die each year in North Dakota from either influenza or pneumonia.

As of Wednesday, state health officials had confirmed 1,216 cases of influenza. They estimated 92 percent were H1N1.

North Dakota's first H1N1-related death and 10 deaths in Minnesota are among more than 1,000 deaths nationwide from the H1N1 virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, Fargo-Moorhead area health officials will host their first H1N1 vaccination clinics this week, with additional clinics expected in the future as more doses become available.

The H1N1 vaccine was previously only available through medical providers, who are targeting health care workers, pregnant women and children.

Clay County anticipates a shipment of between 1,000 and 1,500 doses of vaccine this week for its clinic scheduled on Thursday, said Public Health Director Kathy McKay.

Fargo Cass Public Health expects to have about 1,500 doses available for Saturday's clinic in Fargo, Director Ruth Bachmeier said.

Bachmeier and McKay stressed that anyone who does not meet the age and residency criteria for the clinics will be turned away.

Local law enforcement agencies will be present to help public health officials and direct traffic, but authorities don't anticipate problems, said Lt. Bryan Green, Clay County emergency manager.

As of Monday, Cass County had been allocated 6,350 doses by the state Health Department, according to the department's Web site.

Clay County had received 200 doses of the nasal mist vaccine, which went to health care and emergency response workers, McKay said.

The Minnesota Health Department hopes to eventually receive more than 2 million doses statewide, spokesman Doug Schultz said.

About 200,000 doses of vaccine already had been ordered, Schultz said, and officials planned to order 100,000 more this week.

Frozen shipments

The North Dakota Health Department is hand-delivering doses of H1N1 vaccine after some shipments froze nearly two weeks ago.

Health officials reported last week that more than 1,100 doses of H1N1 vaccine froze while in transit to providers across the state. Those doses were thrown away, and the 150 people who received them were told to be revaccinated because the effectiveness of frozen doses is unknown.

Instead of shipping, the Health Department will deliver the doses to providers across the state until further notice, said Tim Wiedrich, director of the department's emergency preparedness and response section.

Wiedrich also said he won't know definitively what caused the doses to freeze, but said it was likely due to the amount and temperature of the gel packs used in shipping containers.