July 10, 2009 / 6:44 PM / 10 years ago

UK records first H1N1 death in healthy patient

LONDON (Reuters) - British health authorities said on Friday they had recorded the first death from H1N1 flu in an otherwise healthy patient.

A child wearing a facemask after arriving at Gatwick Airport in southern England, May 1, 2009. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

The patient from Essex, eastern England, is the 15th to die in Britain from the virus, but unlike all the others had no underlying health conditions.

“This death underlines that, although the virus is proving generally mild in most people, it is more severe in some cases,” said Britain’s Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson.

“As with all flu-like viruses, some people are at higher risk than others. Unfortunately, people who are otherwise healthy could also become seriously ill or, sadly, die.”

The unnamed patient died on Friday at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Trust in Essex.

The Department of Health said on Thursday the rapid spread of infection in London and the West Midlands was close to epidemic level.

It said Britain had 9,718 laboratory-confirmed cases, the third most in the world behind the United States and Mexico, although the actual number of cases was likely to be higher.

The other 14 patients who have died all had underlying health issues and it is not clear in how many cases the patients had died as a direct result of the virus, known as swine flu.

The World Health Organization declared on June 11 the outbreak of the virus was a pandemic and more than 94,500 cases have been reported worldwide.

Britain’s Health Minister Andy Burnham said last week the government was projecting more than 100,000 new cases a day of the flu by the end of August.

While most people who have caught the infection have suffered mild symptoms, in a small minority it has proven more severe.

Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Sophie Hares

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