H1N1 Contributed To Teen's Death


Todd Faulkner


CALDWELL COUNTY, KY - Family and friends of 13-year-old Gabrielle "Gabby" Wilson continue to grieve. 

The Caldwell County Middle School student died September 23 at Crittenden County Hospital.  She was a 7th grade student and cheerleader in Princeton, KY. 

Wilson initially went to the doctor with flu-like symptoms.  Monday, the Kentucky Cabinet For Health and Family Services issued a news release saying Wilson's death was related to the H1N1 influenza. (Read full news release below).  However, Crittenden County Coroner Joe Myers said the results from Wilson's autopsy by the KY State Medical Examiner's Office are pending.  Also, Myers said he has not signed off on any official death certificate.

Wilson attended Caldwell County Middle School. (Jonathan Warren, WPSD Local 6)
Still, news from the Cabinet didn't sit well with people in the Princeton community.  A mother waiting to pick up her child outside Caldwell County Middle School is relying on her religion to cope with the death of Wilson. The mom, who didn't want to be identified, knew Wilson because her child was her classmate.

"I just put it in God's hands and He'll take care of us.  The motherly instinct in me wants to keep (my kids) at home and never bring them back, but common sense tells me they can not only get it (at school), they can get it at Wal-mart, or the grocery store.  We can't live in a bubble," the mother said.

A news release from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services distributed on Monday reported Wilson's death was related to the 2009 H1N1 influenza.

Cabinet Spokesperson Gwenda Bond said, "When we determine that someone has the flu when they pass away, it becomes associated with the flu that does not mean we are issuing a cause of death, we actually don't do that.  We purely are looking at this from a public health standpoint just to capture when there are deaths especially involving children."

One mother with a child in the middle school, who didn't want to be identified said people can't "live in a bubble." (Jonathan Warren, WPSD Local 6)
Superintendent Carrell Boyd said Monday's announcement didn't provide a lot of closure.

"The release of this information is very unfortunate at this particular time because it really doesn't tell us a whole lot more than we had at the time of Gabby's death," Boyd said.

Friends and family of Gabby were gathering at a home in Princeton Monday afternoon.  Local 6's Todd Faulkner spoke briefly with a woman who asked him to leave and didn't want to go on camera.  However, she said the family continues to grieve and wants their privacy.

Parents continue to help their children understand what happened while hoping the school district continues safeguarding kids.  "And I can only hope and pray that they're doing the best they can do to protect our children," one mother said.

Caldwell Co. Schools Superintendent Boyd discusses Monday's news from the state. (Jonathan Warren , WPSD Local 6)
Superintendent Boyd assured parents the district is saying, "We're going to be with this for weeks to come, for months to come.  We all know this.  This is a nationwide issue and it's one we'll be dealing with so we just ask for a cooperative effort from our parents and all of our public health officials."

An effort to heal and try to understand the death of a 13-year-old girl.

Again, Crittenden County Coroner Joe Myers stressed that he has not signed off on the death certificate and has not received an autopsy report.  The Cabinet said H1N1 was a contributing factor in Wilson's death, not the official cause.  Coroner Myers says we should know some time this week.

"Basically what we have is a standard procedure by the Public Health Department to release information related to any, uh, pediatric death in the state of Kentucky. 

We were very prepared for this, but, uh, in finding out the depth of this we do find it is, uh, an H1N1 related death.  However, the cause of death has still not been determined and I think it's very important for parents to understand that.  We do not have any confirmation as to the actual cause of death. 

We have to continue to follow the recommendations of the public health officials and that's what we're doing at this time.  The release of this information is very unfortunate at this particular time because it really doesn't tell us a whole lot more than we had at the time of Gabby's death. 

So, I just simply ask that our parents continue to work on all the personal hygiene efforts at home and we continue to work on all of our hygiene efforts at school.  We're going to be with this for weeks to come, for months to come.  We all know this.  This is a nationwide issue and it's one we'll be dealing with so, uh, we just ask for a cooperative effort from our parents and all of our public health officials as we attempt to battle this throughout the course of the year."

-Caldwell County Schools Superintendent Carrell Boyd

(Oct. 5, 2009) FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH), the Pennyrile District Health Department and the Christian County Health Department announced today that the state is reporting two additional deaths related to 2009 H1N1 influenza (swine flu). The deaths involved a Caldwell County teenager with no known health issues and a Christian County woman in her late 20s who had underlying health issues.

     “Influenza always has the potential to cause serious illness or complications that can result in hospitalization, and even death. It is a tragedy when we lose Kentuckians to any illness, especially children and young adults," said William Hacker, M.D., commissioner of DPH. "Kentucky continues to experience widespread flu activity at the moment, and is working with federal, state and local partners in the public and private sectors to prepare for the 2009 H1N1 vaccination campaign. Flu vaccine is one of the most effective tools we have against influenza and we hope to begin immunizing Kentuckians in the weeks ahead."

     Although more than 1,300 deaths associated with H1N1 influenza have been reported nationwide, the severity of H1N1 influenza illness appears comparable to seasonal influenza, which is responsible for about 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The state reported its first swine flu-associated death in early September, involving a Fayette County woman in her 50s who had underlying health conditions. The state's second H1N1-associated death was reported last week, and involved a Jefferson County woman in her 40s with no known health issues.

     Limited quantities of the swine flu vaccine will become available this week, with an increase in supply anticipated toward the end of the month and into November. The earliest shipments will be of the nasal spray vaccine, which can be taken by healthy individuals ages 2-49, with H1N1 flu shot vaccine following in larger quantities. Health officials are recommending that individuals under 65 who are at higher risk for complications of the flu—such as pregnant women, health care workers, caretakers of children younger than six months and those with chronic illnesses—be among the target groups to receive vaccine first. Health care providers interested in providing H1N1 vaccine should contact their local health department as soon as possible. Seasonal flu vaccine is already available in many locations, and health officials are encouraging individuals, including those over 65, not to delay receiving their annual flu shot.

     "Although we are continuing to see an increased number of cases of the flu, to date the illness H1N1 causes is comparable to seasonal flu and will usually not require the closure of schools for public health reasons," said Dr. Hacker.

     The symptoms of both seasonal and H1N1 influenza include fever, chills, headache, sore throat, cough, body aches, and may include vomiting or diarrhea. Individuals at higher risk for complications—such as those with chronic health conditions or who are pregnant—should contact a health care provider early, in case treatment with antiviral medication is necessary.

    Common sense precautions to prevent illness include: avoiding close contact with those who are ill; staying home when sick; covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing; avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth; and frequent hand washing.

    Individuals can visit http://healthalerts.ky.gov for information on H1N1 and Kentucky, or follow KYHealthAlerts on Twitter. Kentucky's toll-free influenza hotline number is 1(877)843-7727, and operates from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.


Crittenden County, KY - The state is reporting two additional deaths related to the H1N1 influenza, commonly known as the swine flu.

The deaths involved a Christian County woman and a 13-year-old in Caldwell County. 

A spokesperson with the Kentucky Department for Public Health said that while the Caldwell County teenager had the H1N1 flu at the time of her death, it's not known right now whether the flu caused her death.

The Crittenden County Coroner said Monday he had not received an official autopsy report and had not signed off on the death certificate.