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Statement from Health Minister following death of child with confirmed swine flu

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey has expressed his deepest sympathy to the family of a young child who died yesterday and who was confirmed as having swine flu.

The exact cause of death of the child is not yet known.

The Minister said: "It is desperately sad when a child dies and my thoughts and sympathies are with the child’s family. I would ask everyone to respect the privacy of the family at this very sad time. No further information will be given out at this stage.

"I realise that parents of young children may be worried by this news. I can assure parents that medical experts from the Public Health Agency have been providing advice to GPs who may be contacted by parents whose children may have been in contact with this child.

"Incidents of swine flu in Northern Ireland are continuing to rise and we must expect further increases in cases in the weeks ahead. Swine flu remains a major public health threat but we are well prepared and have been planning for a pandemic for some time.”

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride said: “Any parents who have concerns that their child may have symptoms of swine flu should immediately contact their GP or out-of-hours service for advice and assessment. For parents of children who may have been in contact with this child, I would like to assure them that if their child has no symptoms of swine flu and is otherwise healthy there is no need for antiviral treatment.

"For the vast majority of people, swine flu remains a mild illness, however, some people will require hospital care and in some cases admission to intensive care. All of us in the health service have been planning and preparing to deal with any increased pressure on our services."

Notes to editors:

1. Some groups of people are more at risk of serious illness if they catch Swine Flu, and will need to start taking antivirals as soon as they are confirmed with the illness. We are still learning more about the risk profile of the virus, but we already know that the following are particularly susceptible.

People with:

  • Chronic lung disease
  • Chronic heart disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Chronic neurological disease
  • Immunosuppression (whether caused by disease or treatment)
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Patients who have had drug treatment for asthma within the past three years
  • Pregnant women
  • People aged 65 years and older
  • Young children under five years old

It is vital that people in these higher risk groups get antivirals and start taking them as soon as possible – ideally within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

2. The Northern Ireland swine flu helpline number 0800 0514 142 is a freephone helpline for those who want more information about swine flu. Textphone 18001 0800 0 514 142.

3. The UK-wide flu information line on 0800 1 513 513 provides regularly updated advice on swine flu. This is also a freephone number.

4. Further information about swine flu can be found on the DHSSPS website or nidirect.

5. Press enquiries to DHSSPS Press office on 028 9052 0636 or 02890 520575. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715 44 and your call will be returned.