22/10/2009

More Swine Flu Tragedies Revealed

A second child from Foyleview special school in Londonderry has died after contracting swine flu.

Ashleigh Lynch is understood to have been a fellow pupil of 14-year-old Orla O'Kane who died last week.

Five Foyleview pupils have now contracted swine flu with a NI-wide swine flu vaccination programme for hundreds of children with complex special needs starting today - partly promoted by the deaths.

The news comes as a total of three more people in Northern Ireland were reported to have died from illnesses related to the H1N1 virus on Wednesday.

As well as Ashleigh Lynch, another of the victims is understood to have been a child who attended special schools - while the third was a 62-year-old man.

An emergency meeting involving the health and education ministers along with senior officials from both departments is set to be held later.

The Department of Health said the man with swine flu had died but "it was not the cause of his death".

SDLP Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey yesterday extended his sympathies to the family of a second child from Foyleview special school in Derry who has died after contracting swine flu.

He said last night: "I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Ashleigh Lynch and wish to extend my sincerest sympathies to her family and friends.
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"This will be heartbreaking news for the Lynch family and Ashleigh's fellow pupils and teachers at Foyleview Special School and compounded by the tragic death of Orla O'Kane last week.

"The wider community will now want to be reassured that all steps are being taken by the Western Health Trust to ensure the school has all the support necessary to help them cope in the difficult days and weeks ahead," he said, also tackling the Department of Health who "need to demonstrate that the appropriate procedures have been followed in dealing with this case".

He also commented on the NI swine flu vaccination programme launched on Wednesday and said it is vitally important that those children who fall within the 'at risk' group including those with are given their inoculation "as a matter of urgency".

Ashleigh is the eighth person from Northern Ireland to die after contracting the virus.

The first batches of swine flu vaccination were given to frontline health and social care staff and those in "at risk" groups yesterday.

About 55,000 doses have been delivered so far and more are due to arrive soon.

At risk groups include those aged between six months and 65 in the annual seasonal flu vaccination programme and all pregnant women.

They also include household contacts of those with immunity problems and people aged 65 and over who would normally get a seasonal flu jab.

(BMcC/GK)

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