Homer woman who died at 44 tested positive for swine flu

13TH FATALITY: Director of coastal studies center was medevacked to anchorage.

February 15, 2010 

HOMER -- The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has confirmed that a middle-aged woman from Homer who died last week tested positive for H1N1 influenza, or swine flu.

The family of Terry Shepherd, 44, had said earlier that she had H1N1. Shepherd had been the executive director of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies since October and had moved to Homer last fall with her husband from Moab, Utah.

Because of medical privacy laws, DHSS cannot identify the flu death in Homer as being Shepherd.

Shepherd was admitted to South Peninsula Hospital Feb. 7 and diagnosed with flu and complications of pneumonia. She was medevacked to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage Feb. 8 and died two days later.

DHSS had said Thursday that a Homer woman had influenza A. A quick test can determine if a patient has influenza A or B but further lab analysis is needed to identify a flu virus as being H1N1. All type A influenza tested in Alaska since the H1N1 pandemic began last spring has been confirmed to be H1N1.

Shepherd's death is the 13th confirmed flu-related fatality in Alaska since July 2009. The last confirmed flu-related death was Nov. 28, said DHHS spokesman Greg Wilkinson. Flu season often peaks in February or March but can last until early spring. DHHS documented up to 55 incidents weekly of H1N1 through November but the numbers had declined to fewer than five by the end of the year. However, hospitalizations for pneumonia and flu have ranged from 35 to 54 a week statewide since January.

The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies is an environmental education organization that runs programs in Homer through the Carl E. Wynn Nature Center on East Skyline Drive, its Lake Street headquarters and at its Peterson Bay field station.

Shepherd started at CACS in October. She had been executive director of Red Rock Forests in Moab, an advocacy group for forests and watersheds.

Shepherd grew up in a military family. After her father retired, her family settled in Tampa, Fla., where Shepherd graduated from Jefferson High School and the University of Tampa. She received a Master of Arts degree in political science from Colorado State University, Fort Collins, and a Master of Science degree in environmental studies from the University of Montana, Missoula.

Shepherd is survived by her husband, Harold Shepherd, and two stepsons.

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