Man with ‘swine flu' dies in Craigavon hospital
A MAN with swine flu is understood to have died in Craigavon hospital.
It is believed the man had underlying health conditions and that two more people are in a critical condition in the same hospital.
An assembly member said she learned of the death as it emerged that 36 people have been treated for the potentially deadly virus in intensive care units across the north in the last month alone.
The man's death last week follows that of a child in the Republic, where the Health Service Executive (HSE) said cases are expected to rise for up to two more weeks.
Seven years ago an outbreak of swine flu (H1N1) killed almost 30 people in Northern Ireland. When asked about the latest case on Monday, the Public Health Agency (PHA) and Southern health trust said it was not their policy to confirm individual causes of death.
Swine flu has accounted for 80 per cent of flu admissions to hospitals since September.
The Irish News has learned that seven people have died from influenza in that time, but the PHA would not confirm which strain claimed the lives.
However, it has emerged that of a total of 41 people treated in intensive care units for flu in the last month, 36 of them had swine flu.
SDLP assembly member Karen McKevitt said on Monday she had asked about swine flu cases during a meeting with senior management of the Southern health trust on Friday following reports of the Dublin death.
"I have since discovered that a man with underlying health conditions had died in Craigavon Hospital after contracting swine flu," she said.
"And furthermore it now appears that there have been over 150 cases of swine flu across the north.
"This is clearly a serious public health concern and one which the trusts should be upfront about when tackling.
"The public must be reassured that they are not at any increased risk."
During the 2009 outbreak in the north, the majority of those who died had underlying health issues.
The PHA stressed that the H1N1 virus is one of those covered by the seasonal flu vaccine which is offered free to over-65s, all pre-school and primary school children and people in `at risk' groups, including pregnant women and those with underlying health issues like asthma or heart conditions.
"Most recent statistics indicate that the week ending January 31 2016, there were 31.7 per 100,000 people accessing primary care with flu-like illness," a spokesman said.
"This is still substantially below the threshold that indicates the start of significant influenza circulation in the community (measured at 49.4 per 100,000 population).
"The Public Health Agency would encourage anyone in these groups who has not yet received their vaccination to contact their GP to arrange an appointment."