Contact theSOPAbout theSOPSupport theSOPWritersEditorsManaging Editors
theSOP logo
Published:May 9th, 2009 20:29 EST
Judy Trunnell

Texas Woman Is First U.S.-Born Person Claimed by Swine Flu

By Christopher HIllenbrand

What is normally celebrated as a jubilant experience for a new mother and her newborne infant has become a tragic footnote for the family of 33-year-old Judy Trunnell from Texas, the first U.S.-born person to have died from complications related to swine flu.

Judy Trunnell, the first U.S.-born person to die from swine flu

The schoolteacher was originally admitted into the hospital on April 19th, complaining of breathing difficulties. During the past two weeks of her hospitalization, she fell into a coma, forcing doctors to perform a Cesarean section on the soon-to-be mother to save the child.

Trunnell`s cousin in Maryland told local news affiliate WMAR-TV in Baltimore that she had passed away on Tuesday.

Mario Zamora, the woman`s cousin, spoke fondly of the sweet human being he knew all her life.

"She was just a beautiful person, warm at heart. She worked with disabled children as a teacher," he recalled. "Those that knew her will always remember her."

Health officials in Texas denied to say that Trunnell`s death was directly caused by swine flu. Texas Health Department spokeswoman Carrie Williams reported that the young woman suffered from "chronic underlying health conditions", but refrained from going into any more detail.

Trunnell was born in Harlingen, a city near the U.S.-Mexico border, and was a grade school teacher in the Mercedes Independent School District, close to 15 miles away from her hometown.

Trunnell first sought medial attention on April 14, and was later admitted almost a week later, when she had troubling breathing and was put on life support machines.

By the time she was hospitalized at the University of Texas School of Public Health`s Brownsville campus, Trunnel was already seriously ill, campus dean Dr. Joseph McCormick said.

Leonel Lopez, a Cameron County epidemiologist, claimed doctor were positive that Trunnel suffered from some sort of the flu, but couldn`t tell until the tests came back. Right before her death, they diagnosed her with the H1N1 influenza strain. The region is amid an outbreak of Type A influenza strains, where swine flu only constitutes one of those in question, according to Zamora.

As a precaution to the epidemic, Mercedes school district administrators forced all schools to close for the rest of the week, but said that class should recommence by next Monday, barring some unforeseen incident.

The schoolteacher`s demise comes as Mexico began lifting the nationwide bans on schools, churches and other public places where the initial outbreak of H1N1 influenza is believed to have originated. On Tuesday, the Mexican government officially declared that stores, restaurants, and manufacturing plants may now be reopened. Meanwhile, American health authorites rescinded their advice in keeping schools with unconfirmed swine flu cases closed for the next two weeks.

Last week, the U.S. government reported that a child who traveled to Brownsville, Texas, from Mexico, died from swine flu, making the toddler the first death from the illness in the country. The toddler suffered from flu-like symptoms, before being rushed to a children`s hospital in Houston where he died.

By Wednesday, Mexico has verified 30 deaths, including the toddler`s, were a consequence of swine flu. Mexico and the United States have reported the most cases among countries worldwide, though the virus is still being documented in many of the already infected nations around the world.