A woman from Rogaland County in western Norway and a young woman from Askim, southeast of Oslo, have become the latest victims of swine flu. Health officials blamed their deaths at hospitals in Stavanger and Fredrikstad on the swine flu virus, which now is believed to have infected more than 600,000 Norwegians.
A woman in her 60s died at Stavanger University Hospital on Thursday after being treated in the intensive care unit for six days.
She’s the 18th victim of swine flu in Norway and was part of the group considered at high risk for the disease. She’d been put on a respirator a week ago.
Dr Alf Johnsen, a city health official in Askim, told Aftenposten.no on Thursday that the young woman from Askim had been admitted to the hospital (Sykehuset Østfold) in Fredrikstad a week-and-a-half ago.
She was in intensive care the entire time, Johnsen said, and earlier had undergone treatment at a hospital in Moss.
She had not been vaccinated against swine flu and it wasn’t immediately clear whether she was considered to be part of the group at high risk because of a chronic illness.
Her death was the 17th officially tied to swine flu in Norway, which has had a much higher death rate from the disease than other countries in Northern Europe. Health officials still aren’t sure why.
The state health insitutute Folkehelseinstituttet reported Thursday that around 630,000 Norwegians are now sick or have been sick with swine flu. As many as 300,000 Norwegians have been infected during the past week as the disease spreads in epidemic proportions.
“We are in the middle of a new and strong wave of infection which is much stronger than the one we saw during the summer,” Dr Hans Blystad of the health institute told Aftenposten .
Bjørn Guldvog, assistant state health director, said he thinks the number of people falling ill will continue to rise. “But soon almost everyone in the high-risk group will have been vaccinated, so we hope it will flatten out again,” he said.
Swine flu vaccinations were finally made available to the general population this week.
Although Health Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen claimed the general vaccination program was functioning well after starting up on Monday, shortages of the vaccine remained and some health stations had to close their doors until supplies were replenished.
More information on the state vaccination programs is available atwww.pandemi.no.