1st local swine flu death sparks fears in WC

Health officials in Westchester County are trying to keep fears associated with swine flu at bay following reports that the illness had claimed its first victim in the county Tuesday.

Health experts say the 29-year-old Yonkers woman who succumbed to the H1N1 virus had an underlying condition that made her more vulnerable. They emphasize that most people who contract the virus recover, and even patients who suffer from chronic illnesses can survive a bout with swine flu if they promptly seek medical attention.

Dr. Joseph Ponticello, who works in the emergency room at South Shore Medical Center, says many of his patients are concerned about swine flu.

"The average person shouldn't be worried," Ponticello says. "This has been a mild flu that we've been seeing."

However, doctors say patients whose immune system has been compromised and people who have chronic illnesses like diabetes, asthma and emphysema are at a higher risk. Pregnant women, seniors over the age of 65 and children younger than 2 years old may also be more susceptible to the virus.

Experts say people should seek medical help if they experience trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, have a bluish skin color and feel dizzy or confused.

For Dr. Ponticello's update on swine flu concerns, go to your digital cable box and select iO Extra, Ch. 612.

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