Schoolgirls and teacher take swine flu toll to seven

Three victims were all suffering from serious underlying health conditions
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Two nine-year-old schoolgirls and a male teacher have died after contracting swine flu, it was announced yesterday, bringing the total number of UK deaths related to the virus to seven.

All three victims had underlying health issues, in common with the four others who have died in Britain after catching swine flu. The teacher and one of the girls, who was named locally as Asmaa Hussain, were both from Kirklees in West Yorkshire, while the other girl lived in south London.

It is unclear whether Asmaa, who died on Thursday, was related to the teacher, who died three days later. He is believed to be in his forties and reportedly worked at the Institute of Islamic Education in Dewsbury, which closed last week after three students were diagnosed with the virus.

A spokesman for NHS Kirklees said: "It is with sadness that we can confirm that a child from the Kirklees area, who had swine flu, has died. The child also had serious underlying health issues. At this stage, we have no confirmation whether or not swine flu was the cause of death." A similar statement was issued on behalf of the man.

Asmaa's uncle, Ghulam Rasoo, said she suffered from epilepsy. She had shown flu-like symptoms on the day she died, and had been put on a course of the antiviral drug Tamiflu by her doctor. She later suffered an epileptic fit, and died within 15 minutes.

The girl from south London, who died over the weekend, is the second swine flu-related death in the capital within five days. On Wednesday, a 19-year-old man from south London died after catching the virus.

A spokesman for NHS London said: "A second person in London who had tested positive with swine flu has died. The nine-year-old child from south London had serious underlying health problems. No further details will be released to protect patient confidentiality. We would ask the media to respect the family's privacy at this very difficult time. Our thoughts are with them as they come to terms with their loss."

Last week, the Health Secretary Andy Burnham warned that the number of recorded cases could soar to 100,000 a day by the end of next month. Ministers said that containing swine flu had become impossible, and that the country was now entering the "treatment" phase.

In total, the UK has more than 7,400 confirmed cases, but the numbers are now rising so rapidly that the Health Protection Agency has decided not to provide them on a daily basis.

Last month, Jacqui Fleming, 38, from Glasgow, became the first person in the UK to die after contracting the virus. Two weeks before, her son Jack had been born 11 weeks prematurely. He later died, but did not have the virus. A 73-year-old man from Inverclyde in Scotland became the UK's second victim, and the third was six-year-old Sameerah Ahmad from Birmingham, who was born with a rare life-threatening disease.

The virus continues to spread rapidly across the world. Last night, a group of British medical students who accidentally introduced swine flu to Kenya arrived back in the UK as the number of confirmed cases in the east African country rose to 15. The 34 undergraduates, from the University of Nottingham, had been quarantined in their hotel in the western city of Kisumu since 28 June, after one of their number became the first person in Kenya to fall ill with the virus. The 20-year-old man, who has not been named, contracted swine flu from his girlfriend in the UK. He handed himself over to Kenyan health authorities after complaining of a headache and joint pains a few days after she was diagnosed with the H1N1 strain in Nottingham.

The medical students were on a trip with a charity called the Kenyan Orphan Project, and had spent the first week visiting hospitals, health clinics, orphanages and schools. The charity's director Ted Allen insisted there was "no indication" that the students were responsible for the outbreak.

The group attracted intense interest from the Kenyan media, with some journalists reportedly posing as doctors in an attempt to gain access to their hotel. On Saturday, they were driven away under police escort. Six flew home from Nairobi on Sunday morning and another 27 followed yesterday, after spending the afternoon at the residence of the British High Commissioner. One student, a Kenyan national, remained in the country.

Many of the students had intended to remain in Kenya to do some travelling after their charity trip ended, but decided to cancel their plans after being informed by health authorities that they would have to remain in Nairobi under observation for an unspecified period.