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Swine flu feared as baby dies in Belfast hospital

A second suspected death from swine flu in Northern Ireland was today confirmed by Health Minister Michael McGimpsey.

It is understood a post mortem is to be carried out on the victim, believed to be an infant, who died at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

It is unclear if the child had any underlying health conditions, but it is thought the baby’s death was linked to swine flu.

Mr McGimpsey said he had been informed by a Trust of a “possible further death” associated with the virus.

The Department of Health, however, would not comment further on the age or sex of the victim.

In a statement Mr McGimpsey said: “I have been informed by a Trust of a possible further death associated with swine flu.

“Obviously every death is tragic and my thoughts and sympathies are with the family of the deceased.

“I do not wish to make any further comment until the results of the post mortem are known.”

Last month Caroline Hoy (39) from Ahoghill, Co Antrim died at Belfast City Hospital.

The mother-of-two had been diagnosed with terminal cancer before she contracted swine flu.

Lee Porter, a soldier from Coleraine, Co Londonderry, died from swine flu at a hospital in Surrey on July 31. The news of the second suspected death from the virus comes as it emerged the cost of the swine flu outbreak could reach almost £100m.

Mr McGimpsey said developing a vaccine and antibiotics have used up cash and wants the Treasury to meet the unanticipated bill.

Mr McGimpsey, however, said he had received no assurances yet.

The minister was asked about the price tag at the Assembly yesterday, but said progress was being made despite the uncertainty.

“A number of those measures are already in place, others are coming into place,” he said.

“Part of that as we are aware now is a sleeping contract for vaccines, extra anti-virals, extra antibiotics, personal protection equipment and so on.”

He added the best estimate of the cost of the pandemic was £78m but that it could be in a range between £65-£96m depending on the severity of spread.

He asked the previous Finance Minister Nigel Dodds to request extra money from the Treasury but the response had been negative.

“It does leave us a very big shortfall,” he added.

There have been 189 confirmed cases of swine flu in Northern Ireland to date.

* Source: The Belfast Telegraph.