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 at about 6:15 a.m. while in intensive care at an undisclosed St. Louis-area hospital, health officials said.
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.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was asked to determine the man's cause of death and also if underlying factors played a role. That determination could take several weeks, health officials said.
"It's an unusual case in what otherwise appeared to be a healthy individual," St. Louis County health directorDolores Gunn said. Health officials said the 20 confirmed cases in Missouri have been mostly mild.
"We are working hard to determine why this case of flu became so much more severe than other cases in Missouri," said Margaret Donnelly, director of the state department of health and senior services.
State and county health officials said the man traveled to Mexico last month and arrived home April 27. He got sick in the days after his return. He went to his doctor, then to an urgent care center on May 9, then to the hospital. He was being treated with anti-viral medication, Gunn said.
The man's family members and medical workers who treated him also have been given anti-viral medications, which work best if taken within 48 hours of a person becoming sick. "It can treat the symptoms. It does not cure the flu," Gunn said. No one who had contact with the man has come down with the flu.
"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.
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., and one each in Canada and Costa Rica.