Swine flu claims first local victims

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Norwegian health authorities have confirmed that a teenager near Larvik and a woman who died over the weekend in Akershus both succumbed to swine flu. The older woman also had heart and lung ailments, however, and officials are toning down the threat of a swine flu epidemic this autumn.

The 16-year-old girl who died this week also had another chronic illness, report health authorities. In both cases, the victims’ conditions worsened rapidly after initially showing some signs of improvement.

The 42-year-old mother of three from Lørenskog, northeast of Oslo, had experienced flu-like symptoms and went to an emergency clinic on Thursday. She’d had a heart attack last spring and also suffered from asthma.

Newspaper VG reported that the woman was given the Tamiflu medication, which she started taking immediately. She was not sent to hospital, but rather went home.

Her condition worsened on Saturday and her family called for an ambulance late Sunday night but she died before reaching the hospital.

Tests have now concluded that she was infected with swine flu, making her the first Norwegian to die of the disease since it started spreading around the world earlier this year.

State health officials, meanwhile, now think fewer Norwegians will be infected with the disease this autumn than earlier expected. They still view the disease as more serious than a seasonal flu that often hits many Norwegians in the fall.

Now it’s expected that cases of swine flu will break out in concentrated clusters during the winter, with as many as 1.4 million infected and around 6,000 requiring hospitalization. Young adults and children are seen as especially at risk, and healthy authorities suggested that anyone living alone should have a “flu buddy” who can regularly check in on them at home.

Swine flu symptoms include sudden high fever of more than 38C, respiratory problems including sore throat, headache and muscle aches.