A Brigham Young University dance instructor died Monday of complications from H1N1, also known as the swine flu, according to colleagues.
Adjunct folk dance teacher Delynne Peay, 62, was healthy before Christmas, but came down with the flu as well as pneumonia and a staph infection over the two-week school break, said BYU World Dance Administrator Colleen West.
“We were all in shock she was ill enough to be sent to the hospital,” West said. “She had a really strong, brilliant personality ... we did not see this coming at all.”
Peay, the department’s longest-running faculty member, had taught folk, ethnic dance and other classes for 39 years, according to a statement from the school’s College of Fine Arts and Communications.
“Delynne was a woman of great energy and life,” said department chairwoman Marilyn Berrett in the statement. “She gave so much to the world of dance and will be dearly missed. She has certainly left a large set of shoes to fill.”
One of her students, Katilyn Gourley, set up a donation site to help the family with medical bills at gofundme.com/61wafw.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 36,000 people die annually from the flu.
Utah’s Department of Health only monitors pediatric deaths from the flu, and none have been reported this year.
But it’s adults between the ages of 25 and 49 who are most vulnerable to H1N1, which is the predominant strain circulating this year. It was named the swine flu when it first surfaced in 2009 and is responsible for most of Utah’s 478 flu hospitalizations since the season’s start in October.
There have been a handful of news accounts of adults dying from influenza, which public health officials can neither confirm nor deny. County health officials have confirmed three adults in southwest Utah and two adults in Salt Lake County have died from the flu, without releasing further details.
“It’s difficult for us to confirm that the death was caused by influenza,” said Becky Ward, a health educator at state Health Department. “We know it’s out there; that’s the message we need to get to the public.”
Flu hospitalizations, however, appear to have reached their peak.
“Probably over the next few weeks [Utah] will see a gradual decline,” said Ward, noting the risk for flu is now “moderate,” while last year at this time it was still “high.”