Swine flu baby 'died of heart condition'

A baby who died in the North had swine flu, Stormont’s health minister confirmed tonight.

While the child had tested positive for the virus, Michael McGimpsey said the actual cause of death was a heart condition.

“My sincere sympathies go the family at this tragic and very sad time,” he said.

The minister said he would be issuing no further details because the family had asked for their identity to remain private.

The death is the second fatality linked to the virus in the North.

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

Caroline Hoy from Ahoghill, Co Antrim, died in Belfast City hospital. She was already 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.

There have now been almost 220 laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus in the region, though the number of clinically-diagnosed cases is nearing 9,000.

The number of people that have been admitted to hospital is approaching 100.

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 Northern Ireland when the second wave of the virus hits in the autumn, around 500,000 will contract the condition, 5,000 may be admitted to hospital and up to 525 could die.

Earlier today, Mr McGimpsey assured the Northern Ireland Assembly 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.”

Assembly members reacted with sadness to the reports of baby’s death.

Chairman of the Stormont health committee Jim Wells, Democratic Unionist MLA for South Down, passed on his condolences to the family.

“I’m sure the whole house will join me in extending our sympathy to that family,” he said.

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 on necessities such as antivirals, vaccines, personal protection equipment and antibiotics and has predicted that the total spend could approach £100m.

He is currently in talks with the Stormont Finance Department and the Treasury for an additional £50m, having pledged to find £27m 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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