Young child’s swine flu death is first in B.C., raises national tally to 43

VANCOUVER — Health officials in B.C. have confirmed the province’s first death associated with swine flu, raising the national tally to 43.

VANCOUVER — Health officials in B.C. have confirmed the province’s first death associated with swine flu, raising the national tally to 43.

A young child, who had underlying medical conditions, was admitted to hospital on Sunday and died within 24 hours of admission. Testing confirmed the child did have the H1N1 virus.

“We’ve confirmed the first known H1N1-linked death in our province,” said Roy Wadia, spokesman for the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

The child’s age and gender were not disclosed.

Wadia said a second British Columbian, also from the province’s Fraser Valley, likely had H1N1 when she too passed away. But the young woman, who lived with someone diagnosed with the virus, was not confirmed to have the flu herself.

“If she had been tested (before she died) for H1N1, she may have been confirmed as a case but we’ll never really know and so she wouldn’t be counted as part of the official tally,” he said.

“It is likely she had H1N1 but it hasn’t been confirmed.”

There have been 382 confirmed H1N1 cases in B.C. overall. Fourteen of those patients have been admitted to hospital and five of those 14 have been admitted to the intensive care unit.

Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall said any death is a tragedy and extended his sympathies to the families.

Kendall said health officials anticipated there would be some deaths in B.C.

“As unfortunate and tragic as these cases are, it was not unexpected that British Columbia would see some deaths caused by or associated with the H1N1 flu virus,” Kendall said in a statement.

When asked how B.C. managed to fend off its first death as long as it did, Wadia said there were a number of factors at play.

“Certainly, we have been encouraging people since the early days of the outbreak to come forward and get tested, especially in the first few months when the cases were more travel-linked,” he said.

“And so it may well be that our system has been able to catch cases early in the game. It’s also a combination of good fortunate, as well.”

Earlier Tuesday, health officials in Quebec reported another death in that province associated with the swine flu.

Across Canada, there have been more than 9,700 cases of the virus since the outbreak began, with most being mild.

There have also been 14 deaths in Ontario, six in Manitoba, three in Saskatchewan and three in Alberta.

Nationwide, the common flu sends about 20,000 Canadians to hospital each year.

The Public Health Agency’s website says between 4,000 and 8,000 Canadians can die of influenza and its complications annually, depending on the severity of the season.