First U.S. resident with swine flu dies; but officials not sure disease is the reason
HARLINGEN, Texas – This week should have been a joyous time for Judy Trunnell, a 33-year-old schoolteacher who had just given birth to a healthy baby girl.
But the friends and relatives whose cars lined the quiet street in front of her home in a quiet subdivision Tuesday instead were mourning her, the first American with swine flu to die.
In Maryland, her cousin told WMAR-TV in Baltimore that Trunnell had died after spending two weeks in the hospital. She slipped into a coma, and her baby was delivered by Cesarean section, Mario Zamora said.
“She was just a beautiful person, warm at heart. She worked with disabled children as a teacher,” Zamora said. “Those that knew her will always remember her.”
Texas health officials stopped short of saying that swine flu caused Trunnell’s death. State health department spokeswoman Carrie Williams said the schoolteacher had “chronic underlying health conditions” but wouldn’t give any more details.
She died early Tuesday after being hospitalized since April 19, said Leonel Lopez, Cameron County epidemiologist.
Trunnell’s death came as life in the areas hardest hit by the outbreak began returning to normal. In Mexico, where the current strain is thought to have originated, stores, restaurants and factories were officially allowed to reopen Tuesday. And U.S. health officials withdrew their recommendation that schools with suspected swine flu cases shut down for two weeks.
The only other swine flu death in the U.S. was that of a Mexico City toddler who also had other health problems and had been visiting relatives in Brownsville, near Harlingen. He died last week at a Houston children’s hospital.
There have been 29 other confirmed swine flu deaths, all in Mexico. Hundreds of cases of the disease have been confirmed in several countries, but mostly in Mexico and the U.S.
Trunnell was from Harlingen, a city of about 63,000 near the U.S.-Mexico border, and taught in the Mercedes Independent School District about 15 miles west of her hometown.
She was first seen by a physician April 14 and was hospitalized on the April 19. Zamora said she had complained of difficulty breathing and was put on life support.
Doctors knew she had a flu when she came in, but did not know what kind, Lopez said. The area is undergoing a Type A influenza epidemic right now, and swine flu is one variety of that, he said. She was confirmed to have swine flu shortly before she died, he said.
Dr. Joseph McCormick, regional dean of the University of Texas School of Public Health’s Brownsville campus, said the woman was extremely ill when she was hospitalized.
Mercedes school district officials announced that it would close its schools for the rest of the week and reopen Monday.
Associated Press writers Alicia A. Caldwell in El Paso and Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.
• Confirmed sickened worldwide: 1,884, including 942 in Mexico; 652 in U.S.; 165 in Canada.
• Mexico says epidemic has cost its economy at least $2.2 billion.
• Mexico cancels Cinco de Mayo celebrations but will allow most businesses to reopen Wednesday and universities to reopen Thursday.
The Associated Press