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Swine flu kills 4 in Cordilleras, 1 in HK

By Frank Cimatu, Vincent Cabreza
Inquirer Northern Luzon
First Posted 02:27:00 07/29/2009

Filed Under: Swine Flu, Health, Diseases, Epidemic and Plague

MANILA, Philippines?The Department of Health (DoH) office in the Cordillera has confirmed four deaths related to the Influenza A(H1N1) virus in the region, raising to eight the number of known deaths in the country linked to swine flu.

In Hong Kong, a Filipino female worker, who had been diagnosed as a ?serious Influenza A(H1N1) case,? passed away on Monday, the Philippine consulate general announced Tuesday.

The woman was the second Filipino whose death in Hong Kong was linked to swine flu. A Filipino seafarer died in the former British territory early this month and was found to have suffered from the infection.

In a bulletin released late Monday afternoon, the DoH said an infant, a child, a woman who had just given birth and a teenager died last week, making them the first Cordillera fatalities attributed to the virus.

Reports on swine flu-related deaths had been circulating in the city since last week, but these were confirmed only in the DoH bulletin.

DoH officials Tuesday confirmed that the 9-year-old child had died from swine flu but they have yet to issue the victim?s medical profile. The case has yet to be officially reported to the DoH central office.

High-risk groups

The bulletin said the ?initial deaths ? occurred in risk groups or with underlying morbid conditions: one post-delivery mother, one 10-day-old infant who was compromised from birth and a 17-year-old female who was immuno-compromised due to concurrent typhoid fever with encephalopathy.?

All three were confined in several hospitals, it said.

People considered high-risk for swine flu are those with uncontrolled diabetes, cardiovascular and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic liver and kidney disease, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other infections, according to the DoH.

Also considered high-risk are organ transplant recipients or immuno-compromised such as pregnant women and the very young (5 years and below) and the elderly.

Newborn

The Philippine Daily Inquirer confirmed that the newborn died at a Baguio hospital last week, but doctors there were still determining how the child was infected with the virus.

The child?s mother also died, but a DoH official, who asked not to be named due to lack of authority to speak on the issue, said doctors found no traces of the virus on the woman.

Low-level transmission

Baguio is under a low-level community transmission alert for swine flu after the DoH recorded 114 confirmed cases in the city. Benguet province recorded 11 cases.

Dr. Myrna Cabotaje, DoH Cordillera director, said most patients (90 percent) recovered from the flu.

?Despite its generally mild clinical manifestations in most cases reported in the country, the disease is still evolving,? the DoH bulletin said.

It asked for vigilance and alerted Baguio residents to watch out if their children exhibit labored breathing and bluish skin and lips and frequent vomiting. It also asked children to observe their loss of appetite.

These are signs the children have flu, according to the bulletin.

OFW from Tarlac

In a report, Philippine Consul General to Hong Kong Claro Cristobal said an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) from Tarlac province died at 5:47 p.m. at United Christian Hospital in Kowloon.

Cristobal did not identify the OFW but said she was first diagnosed with severe pneumonia on July 7 and was confirmed by Hong Kong health authorities as a ?serious? A(H1N1) case four days later.

The woman, 37, is survived by her husband and their 6-month-old son in the Philippines. The husband, who arrived in Hong Kong on July 24, was at his wife?s bedside at the time of her death.

At the request of the family, the consulate will be arranging the speedy repatriation of the remains and ensure that the next-of-kin receive all statutory and insurance benefits in due course.

Previous fatalities

Before the DoH office in the Cordillera issued the bulletin, four fatalities in the Philippines had tested positive for the virus.

One of them was a 42-year-old public school teacher in Muntinlupa City who died on July 15. The teacher, a woman, died from septic shock or infection of the blood, secondary to community acquired pneumonia.

In early July, two males died from the virus: a 75-year-old who had emphysema and a 17-year-old who had asthma.

Last month, a 49-year-old mother, an employee of the House of Representatives, succumbed to a heart attack but later tested positive for the virus.

In Bulacan province, officials of the provincial jail Tuesday ordered the resumption of visits, a week after nine inmates were found positive for the virus.

More than 800 deaths worldwide

More than 800 deaths have been linked to the virus, and though the World Health Organization (WHO) no longer provides figures on the number of infected people worldwide, swine flu has spread to 160 of the organization?s 193 member states.

The WHO declared the first influenza pandemic in four decades in June, and the A(H1N1) virus has, in the words of one WHO official, since become ?unstoppable.?

In addition to the death toll, lives have been disrupted in countless ways, including school closings, changes in church rituals and warnings that vulnerable Muslims should not embark on the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Great fear

The great fear among experts is that the virus could mutate into a more virulent form and leave far more damage in its wake.

There are many questions for which we have no answers, said WHO spokesperson Gregory Hartl. ?We don?t know how the virus will change going forward.?

The virus was first uncovered in Mexico and combines swine, human and avian influenza. Most deaths have been concentrated in the Americas, with the United States, Argentina and Mexico recording the highest number of fatalities.

Amid the winter months of the southern hemisphere, the spread of the virus has gained pace, but even in the north, where summer is in full swing, infections have multiplied.

Health experts have found so far that the majority of patients are recovering, even without medical treatment, a week after the appearance of the first symptoms. With reports from Cynthia D. Balana and Kristine L. Alave in Manila; Carmela Reyes, Inquirer Central Luzon; and Agence France-Presse



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