First swine flu death in Ireland announced


A young Irish woman with serious underlying medical problems has become the first fatality from the swine flu virus in Ireland since cases emerged here in May, the Department of Health said tonight.

The woman, who was from the west of Ireland, died in Tallaght hospital this afternoon, the deputy chief medical officer Dr John Devlin confirmed at a briefing in Government Buildings tonight.

To date, some 27 people in Ireland have been hospitalised with the H1N1 virus. Some 18 people remain in hospital,  including three people treated in intensive care units. The woman who died was not one of those in intensive care.

She had contracted the virus in the community and was admitted to the hospital on Monday, Dr Devlin said.

Her family has appealed for privacy. They have been given medication as a precaution.

In a statement tonight, the hospital said "all national protocols have been followed in regards to this matter." It said the patient had been in an individual room within the hospital from the time she was admitted.

”The hospital's influenza pandemic flu committee has put in place all necessary measures to ensure both the safety of other patients and staff within the hospital,”it said. “The hospital has and continues to work in conjunction with the Department of Health & Children and the HSE in relation to the issue.”

Minister for Health Mary Harney issued a joint statement with the Health Service Executive extending their sympathies to the woman’s family and friends.

The Department of Health warned last month that deaths from swine flu were "inevitable".

The global H1N1 swine flu pandemic has claimed 1,154 lives since the outbreak was identified in April, the World Health Organisation said this week. It has warned that the spread of the virus is unstoppable.

Health experts consider the pandemic to be moderate at this point, meaning it can kill people and require hospitalisation for many others, sometimes for weeks at a time with severe illness. However, most sufferers get only a mild illness and get better with little or no treatment.

Dr Devlin said yesterday the number of swine flu cases presented to GPs last week fell by about 100 last week but said the figure will increase again in the coming months.

In the seven days up to last Sunday, the incidence of the H1N1 virus was 32.5 cases per 100,000 of population, the equivalent of some 1,400 cases nationally. Dr Devlin said the number of cases of the virus had “stabilised” in Ireland following an almost three-fold increase from 12.5 to 37 cases per 100,000 the previous week.