New mother is UK's first swine flu victim
Published 15/06/2009 | 10:03
A new mother who gave birth prematurely has become the UK's first patient to die while suffering from swine flu, it emerged today.
The 38-year-old, who had underlying health problems, died at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, Scotland.
It is the first death to be reported outside the Americas, where there have been at least 145 fatalities of people suffering from the virus.
The woman gave birth almost three months early around a fortnight ago at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
It is understood the child, which was born at 29 weeks, does not have swine flu.
The mother, who had been critically ill in intensive care, was one of 10 being treated in hospital in Scotland.
Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: "I'd like to express my condolences to the patient's family and friends. This is a tragedy for those concerned and they have my heartfelt sympathy.
"Tragic though the death is, I would like to emphasise that the vast majority of those who have H1N1 are suffering from relatively mild symptoms."
Professor Hugh Pennington, a bacteriologist at Aberdeen University, said: "It's very sad but with the number of cases we have seen it is really something which was always going to happen sooner or later. Unfortunately it is to be expected.
"It does not point to the virus getting nastier. All the evidence to date suggests the virus is not changing at all.
"This is a flu virus, it is in no way different from an ordinary winter flu virus, so if there are enough cases some people will have to be admitted to hospital and some will die."
He said the presence of underlying health problems was likely to be a "significant factor", adding: "It makes it more likely that they will get the serious form of the virus in the first place."
A Health Protection Agency (HPA) spokesman said: "In the majority of cases so far swine flu has been generally mild but it is proving severe in a small minority of cases. The risk to the general population remains low."
A further 61 new cases in England and 35 new cases in Scotland confirmed yesterday brought the UK total to 1,261.
Of the new cases, 39 appeared in the West Midlands, where 354 people have now been affected by the virus.
There were nine new cases in London, seven in Yorkshire and Humberside, three in the South East, two in the East of England and one in the South West.
In Scotland, 32 of the new cases were in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, and the Highland, Forth Valley and Grampian health boards had one new case each.
There have now been 752 cases confirmed in England, 498 in Scotland, eight in Northern Ireland and three in Wales, according to figures released by the HPA and the Scottish government.
Saturday saw the biggest one-day rise in the number of confirmed infections, with 172 patients in England and Scotland confirmed with the H1N1 virus.
On Friday, Health Secretary Andy Burnham encouraged people not to panic after the World Health Organisation announced the world is now in the grip of a flu pandemic, the first in more than 40 years.
The last flu pandemic in 1968 killed about a million people.