Swine flu death sets off a scare

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The death of an 11-year-old boy to swine flu over the New Year’s weekend has sent scores of Norwegians to emergency clinics in recent days. They fear they have the same dreaded strain of flu, but officials claim there’s no epidemic.

The boy from Porsgrunn had been admitted first to his local hospital in Telemark County before Christmas, but was transferred to the national hospital Rikshospitalet in Oslo when his condition worsened. He died last Thursday after being infected with the H1N1 virus, confirmed Dr Bjørnar Nyen of the local municipality to newpaper Telemarksavisa (TA).

Contacts monitored
The boy’s family has been monitored for signs of the illness, as have his fellow pupils at Myrene School in Porsgrunn. TA reported that several pupils at the school were ill with the flu, but all were diagnosed with more common influensa virus, not swine flu.

Two more persons were admitted to hospital in Oslo with swine flu before Christmas, reported newspaper VG, and more cases have since been confirmed. Health officials had warned in early December that they expected a rise in flu illnesses over the holidays. Around 900 persons die of flu viruses every year in Norway, most of them elderly.

Dr Siri Helene Hauge of the state health institute Folkehelseinstituttet (FHI) told news bureau NTB that three viruses had been identitied as of last week: Influensa B, swine flu H1N1 and the Influensa A (H3N2), which can carry the highest risk for serious illness among elderly patients.

Vaccinations urged
The H1N1 virus that originated in Mexico spread around the world in 2009 and no one is immune. Its symptoms include fever, coughing, sore throat, headache, chills, fatigue and body aches, much like other strains of flu.

News of the swine flu death has sent hundreds of Norwegians to doctors for testing, and health officials still had no precise overview nationwide of other swine flu cases as of Wednesday evening. Doctors at Akershus University Hospital outside Oslo, however, said they had confirmed 181 cases of swine flu since the beginning of November.

Hospital officials claimed they had adequate capacity to deal with the influx of sick patients and thought the illness had peaked this week. Hospitals in Møre og Romsdal, Sørlandet and Bærum also had confirmed cases of swine flu.

All persons considered to be in high-risk category for swine flu (elderly, those with heart trouble, diabetes or other chronic illnesses) were being urged to vaccinate themselves.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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