CLAYTON — A 44-year-old St. Louis County man diagnosed with swine flu after traveling to Mexico died Tuesday, state and county health officials said.
The man's name was not released. He died Tuesday morning at an undisclosed St. Louis area hospital.
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services spokesman Kit Wagar said the man had a confirmed case of swine flu. But an autopsy and further testing is necessary to determine if the illness killed him or if another underlying illness caused his death, health officials said.
"It's an unusual case in what otherwise appeared to be a healthy individual," said St. Louis County health director, Dr. Dolores Gunn.
She said it could be several weeks before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms the cause of death.
State and county health officials said the man traveled to Mexico last month, then became ill after returning home. He went to his doctor, then to an urgent care center about a week later on May 9, then to the hospital. He was being treated with anti-viral medication, Gunn said.
"We're asking residents to remain cautious, but not alarmed," she said. She repeated the importance of good hygiene, like thorough hand-washing and covering up a cough to prevent the spread of illnesses.
If swine flu is confirmed as the cause of death, the man would be the first person in Missouri to die during the current outbreak of the disease. Five people in the U.S. have died, and another U.S. death is being investigated for swine flu.
Missouri has reported 20 cases of swine flu. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 47 states plus the District of Columbia have a combined 5,123 confirmed and probable cases of swine flu. And the World Health Organization said 40 countries have reported more than 9,830 cases, mostly in the U.S. and Mexico.
Global deaths before the St. Louis County case were at 80 — 72 in Mexico, six in the U.S., one each in Canada and Costa Rica.