Baby death 'may be North's second swine-flu fatality'

The death of a baby in the North is suspected to be the second fatal case of swine flu in the region.

A post mortem examination is to be conducted on the baby to confirm whether the virus was the underlying cause.

Stormont Health Minister Michael McGimpsey told the Assembly he had been informed of a possible second swine flu fatality, but did not reveal any further details.

“Obviously every death is tragic and my thoughts and sympathies are with the family,” said the Ulster Unionist.

Last month, a 39-year-old mother of two from Co Antrim became the North's first swine flu victim.

Caroline Hoy from Ahoghill, Co Antrim, died in Belfast City hospital. She was terminally ill with cancer when she contracted the virus.

In July, Coleraine born solider Lee Porter (30) died in a hospital in England from swine flu.

Within the North, there have now been 217 laboratory confirmed cases, though the number of clinically diagnosed cases is now almost 9,000.

Ninety-four people have been hospitalised.

However, health officials have scaled down their worst case scenario predictions on the back of evidence that the virus is milder than first feared.

If the most serious projections play out in the North when the second wave of the virus hits in the autumn, around 500,000 will contract the condition, 5,000 may be hospitalised and up to 525 could die.

Mr McGimpsey assured the house that his department was taking appropriate action to cope with the outbreak.

“This is not a killer virus but is still one that can kill,” he said. “So we must continue to put plans in place which are proportionate to the threat we face..”

During his briefing to the Assembly on the current spread of the virus, Mr McGimpsey warned of serious consequences for health services in the region if funding to meet the bill for coping with swine flu was not met.

The minister has already spent £30m (€34m) on necessities such as antivirals, vaccines, personal protection equipment and antibiotics and has predicted that the total spend could approach £100m (€112.6m).

He is currently in talks with the Stormont Finance Department and the Treasury for an additional £50m (€56m), having pledged to find £27m (€30m) from within his own budget.

“I must remind the house that without funding there will be serious consequences for the health and social care service, patients and the public,” he said.

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