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  • Swine flu: Grieving mother’s plea as Belfast boy is flown to hospital in Scotland

    Posted on January 26th, 2014 admin No comments

    A woman whose daughter died after contracting swine flu has appealed for people to get the vaccination after a schoolboy from Northern Ireland was flown to a Scottish hospital with the virus.

    The seven-year-old boy from Belfast was initially admitted to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children at the weekend.

    But he later had to be transferred to Glasgow for treatment.

    It is believed the young boy had difficulty breathing and needed an ECMO machine.

    It is used for babies and children with severe heart or lung failure and is similar to a heart-lung bypass machine used for open-heart surgery.

    The machine works as an artificial lung outside the body that puts oxygen into the blood.

    A spokeswoman for the Belfast Trust said it does not discuss an individual’s patient treatment or care.

    Almost 30 people in Northern Ireland died after an outbreak of swine flu in 2009 – known as the H1N1 strain.

    The majority of those who died had underlying health issues.

    Corrina Ritchie from Belfast died in 2009 after contracting swine flu on holiday in Spain.

    The 21-year-old underwent a liver transplant but sadly died of complications.

    Lorraine Ritchie, her mother, said it was important to remember how serious swine flu can be.

    “My thoughts are with that little boy’s family,” she said.

    “I know when we were told Corrina had contracted swine flu we were just so shocked.”

    Ms Ritchie (49) added: “I think people have forgotten how serious it can be for people who have underlying conditions.”

    She said it was important for people to be aware of the symptoms and to get the flu vaccination. Swine flu is now classed as seasonal flu. There are currently 22 cases in Northern Ireland.

    A spokeswoman for the Public Health Agency said: “The strains circulating this year include H1N1 and this strain has already been found in small numbers of people in Northern Ireland, and as such, is not unusual.”

    The symptoms are very similar to other types of seasonal flu. Most people recover within a week, even without special treatment.

    Flu symptoms usually peak after two or three days and you should begin to feel much better within five to eight days. If you are becoming more ill, or you are in an at-risk group, then contact your GP for advice.

    For information on seasonal flu, go to


    Influenza (commonly referred to as ‘seasonal flu’) is a respiratory illness associated with infection by influenza virus. Seasonal flu is made up of several strains including H1N1 (swine flu).

    This year’s seasonal flu vaccines include protection against H1N1.

    Swine flu is a relatively new strain of flu that caused a pandemic in 2009-2010.

    Swine Flu Q&A

    Q: What is swine flu?

    A: It is a contagious respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses. Pigs are hit by regular outbreaks. There are many different types of swine flu and the current cases involve the H1N1 strain of type A influenza virus.

    Q: Why should we be worried about it?

    Flu viruses have the ability to change and mutate, making it difficult for drugs manufacturers to ensure effective vaccines are available.

    Q: How do humans catch it?

    A: While people do not normally catch it, humans can contract the virus, usually if they have been in close contact with pigs. It is also possible for the constantly-changing infection to spread from person to person. Experts believe it spreads in the same way as seasonal flu — through coughing and sneezing.

    Q: What are the symptoms?

    A: The symptoms of swine influenza in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza infection and include fever, fatigue, lack of appetite, coughing and sore throat. Some people with swine flu have also reported vomiting and diarrhoea.

    Q: What is the difference between swine flu, avian flu and the flu commonly seen in the UK during the winter?

    A: Influenza viruses are commonly circulating in the human and animal environment, with different strains causing illness in humans, bird and pigs. Seasonal influenza is caused by viruses that are adapted to spread in humans. Humans have some natural immunity to the strains that are in common circulation and this immunity can be boosted by immunisation with a vaccine. Avian influenza is caused by influenza viruses adapted for infection in birds. Swine influenza is caused by influenza viruses adapted for infection in pigs. These illnesses all cause the same respiratory symptoms and can be passed between one another.

    Q Do masks provide protection against swine flu?

    A Yes, but probably not to the person wearing them. They help stop the virus being expelled from the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, but are much less effective at protecting the wearer from a virus picked up on the hands or circulating in the air. Wearing a mask thus becomes a public-spirited act.

    Q How do anti-viral drugs work?

    A Two anti-viral drugs have been licensed in Britain in the last decade: Tamiflu and Relenza. The problem with the flu virus is that it is constantly mutating, so a new vaccine has to be produced each year. The anti-viral drugs get round this by targeting not the virus itself but an enzyme that enables the virus to spread from cell to cell. Provided they are taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms they can shorten the illness and reduce its severity.

    Q What is the difference between Tamiflu and Relenza?

    A The big difference is that Tamiflu is taken as a pill while Relenza is inhaled directly into the lungs.

  • Swine flu: NI boy in ‘serious but stable’ condition

    Posted on January 26th, 2014 admin No comments

    A primary school child from east Belfast diagnosed with swine flu is said to be in a “serious but stable condition”.

    It’s understood that the boy, who is six years old, became unwell at the weekend and was admitted to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

    On Monday, he was transferred to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children at Yorkhill in Glasgow.

    A hospital spokesperson said the family wish to make no further comment.

    It is unclear whether the virus was picked up in Northern Ireland but the BBC understands the boy’s family had previously travelled outside the country.

    Three years ago an outbreak of swine flu killed almost 30 people in Northern Ireland.

    The majority of those who died had underlying health issues. Many more people were struck by the virus, but recovered.

    Twenty people in Northern Ireland have currently been diagnosed with swine flu, according to the Public Health Agency.

    BBC Northern Ireland’s health correspondent Marie-Louise Connolly said: “H1N1, or swine flu, is now considered, and is being treated, like any other strain of the flu virus.

    “Back in 2009, when we first heard of swine flu, it was a completely different scenario.

    “They didn’t have a vaccine widely available to tackle the virus. Over the last five years all that has changed.”

    She pointed out that it was “not an epidemic”.

    “For that to be declared there has to be 52 people per 100,000 people affected,” she said.

    Our correspondent said in the case of the Belfast boy an important factor to consider would be if the child had any underlying health issues, such as asthma.

    The health trust said they did not comment on individual cases.