Nine-year-old girl dies after contracting swine flu

The third death of a UK swine flu patient was confirmed today after a nine-year-old girl died in Birmingham Children's Hospital.

It is not yet known whether swine flu contributed to her death and no further details are available, a Birmingham Children's Hospital spokesman said.

It is understood the young girl died in the past few days.

In a statement, Dr Helen Carter, public health consultant at NHS West Midlands, said: "It is important to remember that our experience here has been that the vast majority of cases with swine flu are mild. I would like to urge everyone that there are some simple steps that the public can take to reduce their chances of catching flu."

As news of the death emerged, the Department of Health announced a big jump in the number of patients in England confirmed with swine flu - up 1,604 since Friday, taking the UK total so far to 5,937.

The West Midlands has been declared a hotspot for the disease, with 2,104 confirmed cases so far - more than a third of the UK's total and more than two-fifths of all the cases in England.

The child is the third patient with the virus to die in the UK.

A 73-year-old man from the Inverclyde area died at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, Scotland, on Saturday night. The unnamed man, who had serious underlying health conditions, had been treated in the hospital's Intensive Care Unit for the past 15 days.

The first UK fatality, Jacqui Flemming, 38, who had just given birth prematurely, died two weeks ago at the same hospital. She also had other health problems.

In Denmark, health officials confirmed they had observed a case of resistance to the antiviral drug Tamiflu in a patient with swine flu. The State Serum Institute, which aims to prevent and control infectious diseases, said: "The person is well now and no further contagion with the resistant virus has been detected."

Meanwhile the head of the British Medical Association (BMA) said today that the public can rely upon doctors to "step up to the mark" as swine flu spreads.

Dr Hamish Meldrum said flu plans were currently working quite well across the UK apart from in some areas where NHS trusts thought they could "do better" by departing from national guidance.

Some 366 retired GPs have joined a BMA register saying they are willing to treat patients if the flu pandemic reaches crisis point.

So far, more than 4,200 people in the UK have been diagnosed with swine flu and hard hit areas include London, the West Midlands and Scotland.

Dr Meldrum told doctors attending the BMA conference in Liverpool: "As yet, we haven't seen how well the UK will respond to the effects of a full-blown pandemic, but what I can say and where I can reassure the public is that, whatever the crisis, you can rely on the doctors of the UK to step up to the mark."

Dr Meldrum received a standing ovation for his speech at the conference, which runs until Thursday.