21/08/2009

'Sadness' As Swine Flu Death Revealed

Northern Ireland has suffered its first swine flu fatality.

The woman died last night having been previously diagnosed with swine flu.

She passed away in a Northern Ireland hospital and it is understood she had an underlying health condition.

NI Health Minister Michael McGimpsey (pictured) said the family had asked for privacy at this "tragic and very sad time" and said that no further details would be released.

Although this death is the first of a person actually within NI, Lee Porter, a soldier from Coleraine, Co Londonderry, died from swine flu at a hospital in Surrey on 31 July.

There have also been two separate fatalities in the Irish Republic from the virus.

Today's tragic news isn't expected to affect an earlier decision not to delay the new school term.

It emerged yesterday that all NI schools, colleges and universities will reopen again as normal for the autumn term.

Preparations for the new academic year were discussed at a meeting between Executive ministers yesterday.

Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey, Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane and Employment and Learning Minister, Sir Reg Empey met at Stormont for a briefing with Northern Ireland's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride and Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Elizabeth Mitchell, who also attended the meeting.

Michael McGimpsey said: "Throughout the summer we have continued to monitor the development of swine flu and assess the possible impact the virus may have on schools and colleges as we approach the new academic year.
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"I can confirm today that schools, colleges and universities will re-open as normal in the autumn. Scientific evidence supports this approach.

"We are also planning for an expected surge of cases in the autumn and winter. There may therefore be some valid reasons for school closures throughout the academic year but this would be the exception rather than the rule.

"The situation will obviously be kept under review," he said, insisting that parents and children can also be reassured that the vast majority of people with swine flu will have symptoms similar to seasonal flu and will make a full recovery.

Also yesterday, the Department of Health published the weekly flu bulletin, covering the week ending 15 August and therefore not taking account of the latest tragic news.

It said that GP consultations for flu and flu-like illness have decreased but remain significantly higher than rates recorded in the same weeks of previous years.

It also noted that Out of Hours calls for flu and flu-like illness have decreased.

Statistically, there were 22 new cases of laboratory confirmed swine flu in addition to four swine flu cases in children attending a summer school in Donegal and others were reported as having symptoms.

Overall, the total number of laboratory confirmed cases in Northern Ireland as at noon on 19 August was 128.

The number of cumulative swine flu hospitalisations is 38; of these eight people were still in hospital as at noon 19th August.

See: Swine Flu Vaccine 'Mistrusted By Nurses'

(BMcC/KMcA)

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