Test confirms H1N1 death in the Bay Area

June 4, 2009 5:44:25 PM PDT
Health officials confirmed the first death from the H1N1 swine flu in the Bay Area. Which means, the family of a little 9-year-old girl is suffering with a terrible loss.

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Karen Perez was a fourth grader at El Monte Elementary School in Concord, and last week she felt a little sick. Contra Costa County health officials no longer keep a tally, but at this point they think there are a few hundred cases of H1N1 flu cases, most of them mild to moderate. It was clearly not the case for this little girl.

"We are saddened to announce the death of a central Contra Costa County elementary school age child. She died of the H1N1 strand of swine flu virus," said Contra Costa County Health Director Dr. Wendel Brunner.

While Contra Costa Health officials made their announcement, friends and family of Karen Perez gathered at St. Bonaventure Catholic Church for the 9-year-old's funeral.

"She was a nice girl. She went to school and she liked to draw and play," said family friend Lluvia Hernandez.

Perez was a fourth grader at El Monte Elementary School where counselors were brought in but class went on as usual.

"I just came from the service and it was very moving," said Mount Diablo Superintendent of Schools Dick Nicoll."Shortly after her death, there was a crisis team on campus and they assisted students and staff."

"I received a message from the school," said El Monte parent Anna Santoyo.

Santoyo received word of the girl's death just today in a recorded message from the school.

"Oh my gosh, when I see a picture of the girl I am going to cry. It's very sad," said Santoyo.

According to health officials, besides the H1N1 virus, Perez also had a secondary bacterial infection. The state lab confirmed that Perez had H1N1 on Wednesday, five days after she died.

"We really stopped most of our testing several weeks ago. Once we identified that the virus was prevalent throughout Contra Costa County, we only test a few of the cases, the most severe cases, or cases if we have a particular reason or need to identify the virus," said Brunner.

School officials at El Monte Elementary told ABC7 they are not taking any special precautions and there were no classes cancelled. They are urging students and staff to use proper hygiene and not to come to school if they are sick.

One school administrator said they are taking donations for the Perez family.

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