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H1N1 claims Altha man

Marcus Dale Whiddon, 25, passed away Friday at Bay Medical Center. According to the Calhoun County Health Department, he died of complications from the H1N1 virus. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of this very unfortunate individual,” says Dr. Eugene Charbonneau, Health Department Administrator. According to Dr. Charbonneau, it is believed that Whiddon, who owned and operated Gulf Coast Construction, contracted the virus while in Duval County. “He came back and went to Jackson County Hospital and ended up on a ventilator about a month ago,” Dr. Charbonneau remarks. “He was moved to Bay Medical after his kidneys failed.” Many people would think the elderly would be more susceptible to fatalities from H1N1, but Dr. Charbonneau says the opposite is true. “We’re not as worried with seniors, because in their long lives they’ve probably acquired a virus similar to H1N1 and developed antibodies which help them fight it,” he explains. In a young healthy person who hasn’t encountered a similar virus, their immune system tries to attack H1N1 on it’s own with a vengeance. Dr. Charbonneau compared it to a military attack – you go in to kill the enemy, but wipe out a lot of good stuff in the process. And when your system is recovering after the attack, complications can develop. “[Whiddon] was a strong, husky guy and he had a strong, husky immune system and that’s ultimately what will kill people with this,” says Dr. Charbonneau. Whiddon leaves behind his wife, Cassie Bates Whiddon, and young son, Triton Whiddon, of Altha. His complete obituary appears on page 10 of this issue. “The Calhoun County Health Department will continue to work with it’s local, state and national partners to keep the citizens of the county protected from the virus to the best of our abilities,” Dr. Charbonneau stresses. Those most at risk are between the ages of 6 months and 24 years. All Calhoun County school children will have the swine flu shots available to them and permission slips were sent home on report card day last month. “We’ve had a number of parents who have wanted to be with their kids when they get the shot,” says Dr. Charbonneau. “We will accommodate them and they can bring them by the health department, but we really urge them to get the shots at school. Everything will flow smoother and we have a documentation system all worked out.” There has been a delay in receiving the vaccine from the Center for Disease Control, but it’s expected to arrive later this week or early next week. In the meantime, everyone is urged to wash their hands, stay home if they’re sick, and avoid close contact with people who appear sick. Signs and symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, chills, fatigue, diarrhea, and vomiting. A hotline for H1N1 questions has been set up and the toll-free number is 1-877-352-3581.

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