Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.
H1N1 deaths may be underreported, but not because of mutation
Although a local medical examiner may be right that the number of deaths from the H1N1 influenza virus in Iowa is greater than official statistics would indicate, Iowans should not be concerned that this is because the virus has mutated as some rumors have suggested.
Instead, the disparity is caused by deaths among patients who are never diagnosed with the virus.
“We’ve known all along that there have been cases that have gone undiagnosed for a variety of reasons,” said Polly Carver-Kimm, public information officer for the Iowa Department of Public Health. “Sometimes people come into the emergency room or are admitted into the hospital and it is later determined, after their death and during an autopsy, that they had the H1N1 virus as a contributing factor.”
State officials want to be clear, however, that these deaths are not a result of a virus mutation or attempts to cover-up the severity of the virus in the state, despite rumors to the contrary.
Late last week, KCCI in Des Moines aired an interview with Dr. Gregory Schmunk, medical examiner for Polk County. Schmunk accurately stated that there are additional deaths in Iowa from H1N1 that were undiagnosed. During the report, Schmunk described the lungs he was seeing during autopsy as “very heavy, wet” and “with a lot of blood in them.”
The report — especially the description of the lungs — has been circulating on the Internet since it aired and has fueled speculation that perhaps the H1N1 virus in Iowa had mutated. Earlier this year, according to analysis of genetic testing done by the World Health Organization, the virus in the Ukraine had mutated to a strain similar to that of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. In particular, the mutation, casually referred to as D225G, causes bleeding in the lungs and has been described as a decimating lung infection.
Carver-Kimm said state examiners do not believe that any mutation has occurred in the H1N1 virus in Iowa.