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Camano Island man dies of swine flu

Will Gardner, 34, was a well-known coach. His death comes after a rapid increase in the number of cases the past few weeks.

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  • Will Gardner

    Will Gardner

A Camano Island man has died of H1N1 swine flu, the first person in either Island or Snohomish counties to die from the virus this influenza season.
Will Gardner, 34, was a well-known coach and board member with Stanwood-Camano Youth Football.
A memorial is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at Stanwood High School's performing arts center.
Gardner died at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on March 10.
"He was ill for a few days before he was seen in a clinic and then immediately sent to the hospital," said Dr. Roger Case, health officer for the Island County Health Department.
"Very quickly after he was in the hospital, it turned worse," Case said.
Gardner contracted pneumonia, often triggered by a severe influenza infection.
Thirty-one people have been admitted to hospitals in Snohomish County with the flu since January.
Two people are currently on ventilators and in Providence's intensive care unit, said Dr. George Diaz, an infectious disease specialist at the hospital.
H1N1 triggered a worldwide pandemic that began in 2009. But protection against this and two other strains of flu are included in this year's influenza vaccine.
Fears about H1N1 prompted many people to get the vaccine, but generally people need to be vaccinated each year.
Gardner is the 15th person in Washington to die of influenza this flu season, according to the state Department of Health.
Gardner's death follows a rapid increase in the number of flu cases over the past few weeks, both in Snohomish County and Washington.
The number of people with flulike illnesses began to increase about five weeks ago, said Dr. Yuan-Po Tu, medical director of walk-in clinics for The Everett Clinic.
"My personal suspicion … is I think we're right at the peak," Tu said.
Although flu typically hits hardest in Washington in January and February, it's not unusual for influenza cases to peak in March, even as cherry trees begin to bloom and with spring just two days away.
Some years it's even later. "If you look back in 2006 … there was a huge peak in the third week of April," said Dr. Anthony Marfin, epidemiologist for the state Department of Health. "The season is variable here."
Flu cases have steadily increased throughout Washington over the past two to three weeks, Marfin said.
Local and state health departments don't tally each case of flu. Instead, scattered clinics throughout the state, such as The Everett Clinic, voluntarily report the number of influenza cases they have treated to help monitor its spread.
Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer for the Snohomish Health District, noted that H1N1 disproportionately affects younger people, unlike seasonal flu, which typically hits hardest in people 65 and older.
However, area schools currently aren't reporting high rates of absenteeism, Goldbaum said.
Stanwood-Camano Youth Football has added a memorial to Gardner on its website.
Bud McCurry, a board member of the organization, said he met Gardner when he began volunteering last year as a youth coach for boys 6 and 7 years old.
"Football is a different animal compared to other sports," McCurry said. "Even at a young age, it's pretty intense."
It was Gardner, though, who often reminded other coaches, "Hey, these are still kids," McCurry said.
Players who want to attend Sunday's memorial will wear their uniforms and sit together as a group, he said.
"It's just a kick in the gut," McCurry said.
"To try to explain his loss to the kids, sometimes you just don't have the words."
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.
Story tags » Camano IslandDiseasesHospitals & Clinics

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