Schoolgirl dies of swine flu as total UK cases near 6,000

A SCHOOLGIRL has become Britain's third swine flu victim, as it emerged the number of cases across the country has soared to almost 6,000.

Health officials said 1,604 new cases of swine flu had been confirmed since Friday. In Scotland, the number of cases has risen by 196 to 1,118, six of whom are being treated in hospital. Globally, the World Health Organisation has recorded almost 60,000 cases.

Yesterday, staff at Birmingham Children's Hospital confirmed a child who died on Friday had since tested positive for swine flu, but had other "serious underlying health conditions".

The unnamed girl is believed to have been a pupil at Mayfield School, which caters for youngsters with learning difficulties.

Hospital chiefs would not say whether the youngster had arrived at hospital with symptoms of the virus, or if she had contracted it while staying there.

Meanwhile, Birmingham Children's Hospital said a post-mortem examination would be carried out to determine if swine flu was the cause of the child's death.

The two previous deaths, a 38-year-old pregnant woman and a 73-year-old man, the latter of whom passed away on Saturday, have both been in Scotland.

Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said last night: "While the two deaths to date in Scotland from H1N1 have been regrettable and tragic for the families involved, underlying medical conditions were a factor in both situations."

Dr Helen Carter, public health consultant at NHS West Midlands, said: "Our thoughts are with the family of the patient at this very sad time.

"The family has asked for the patient's identity to be kept private and we will not be releasing any further details.

"It is important to remember that our experience here has been that the vast majority of cases with swine flu are mild."

UK Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: "This is a tragedy for those concerned and they have my heartfelt sympathy.

"The risk to the general public remains low and we can all play our part in slowing the spread of the virus by following simple hygiene procedures – like washing your hands and using tissues when coughing or sneezing.

"We continue to monitor the situation very closely."

The Scottish swine flu death on Saturday was that of a 73-year-old man at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley.

Jacqui Fleming, 38, from Glasgow, who died in hospital two weeks after giving birth prematurely earlier this month, was Britain's first swine flu fatality.

British Medical Association head of science and ethics Dr Vivienne Nathanson said: "Any kind of flu can kill people of any age. Flu can kill even completely healthy people if they get pneumonia, but if they have got other health problems they are more likely to get complications.

"Most of the people with swine flu have been saved. Of course, every death is a tragedy. But it's important that people do not panic. It is expected that there will be deaths."

Wimbledon flu scare

THE Wimbledon tennis tournament was hit by a swine flu scare yesterday after four ball boys and girls were asked to stay at home after suffering a "flu-like illness".

Tennis fans displaying symptoms, such as a fever, runny nose, sore throat or coughing have been asked to stay away.

Officials insisted there were no reports of any players being affected by any symptoms and said the tournament would continue as normal.

The All England Club, which runs the tennis championships said those affected were not being tested for swine flu and had not been swabbed.

Spokesman Henry O'Grady said: "There are a couple of people that have flu symptoms, and as a result they've been asked to stay at home ... they haven't been tested for swine flu, and they're not going to be tested."

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