A 7-year-old Dalton elementary school student has died of swine flu, marking the first Georgian to die from the illness who did not have an underlying health problem, officials said Thursday.
Candy Chen, a second-grader at City Park Elementary School, died Wednesday morning after a brief hospital stay, school and health officials said.
The girl died only days before Georgia is expected to receive its first doses of swine flu vaccine.
Jennifer Moorer, a spokeswoman for the North Georgia Health District, said the girl had entered the hospital in the middle of last week.
“She did not, as far as we know, have any underlying health condition,” Moorer said.
A total of 21 people in the state have died of swine flu since the virus emerged in April, state officials said. The other 20 people who died all had underlying health conditions that placed them at higher risk, said Lisa Marie Shekell, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Community Health.
Two other children have died of swine flu in Georgia, officials said.
The swine flu, also known as H1N1 virus, has largely targeted children and young adults. That is a change from the regular seasonal flu that hits hardest at older people and those who are frail.
Swine flu is considered widespread in Georgia, according to federal health officials, but the great majority of people who catch it experience only moderate flu symptoms.
Moorer said the child’s death is a reminder that some healthy people can also be hit hard by the virus, if not die.
“Some people do not do as well” as most people with the virus, she said. “And this illustrates that very poignantly.”
City Park principal Rick Little said Chen was “a delightful young lady,” the teacher’s helper in class, with a love of writing and creativity.
“I always saw her with a smile on her face,” he said.
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