Few further details have emerged about the first Dutch fatality caused by swine flu following the news on Tuesday that a 17-year-old boy, who was born with a serious illness, has died from the virus.
The death of the boy in hospital on Monday night was announced by the public health institute RIVM. According to some press reports, the boy contracted the virus abroad. No further information was released at the request of the boy’s family.
Health minister Ab Klink has sent his condolences to the boy’s family. Klink stressed that in the overwhelming majority of cases people only experience a mild form of swine flu.
‘Alas the new influenza A, like normal flu, claims victims in incidental cases. But we are doing all we can to limit that number as much as possible,’ he is quoted as saying by broadcaster Nos.
Up to 4,000 deaths predicted
Around a thousand people die every year in the Netherlands from ordinary flu. According to RIVM director Roel Coutinho on RTL Nieuws on Tuesday, experts are expecting swine flu to kill three or four times that number.
But he stressed that those who are most at risk are people who are already vulnerable through, for example, sickness.
According to the RIVM around 665 people in Holland have been diagnosed with the virus since April although in reality the number is probably higher.
Some 75% caught the infection abroad, mainly in the US, reports Wednesday’s Volkskrant. It says that RIVM’s figures indicate that most patients are between 15 and 34 years old.
Since the first outbreak in April, nine people have been hospitalised but most of these are now back home.
The expectation is that returning holiday-makers will further import the virus and that by the autumn the Netherlands will be in the throes of an epidemic, says the Volkskrant.
Vaccinations being tested
Vaccines against the virus are currently being tested and experts are due to advise the health ministry shortly on which groups should have priority when it comes to vaccinations. Health workers, pregnant women and people with a high risk are expected to be in the priority categories for vaccinations.
The ministry has ordered 34 million doses of the vaccine, enough for two injections per person.
The Netherlands is the sixth European country to register a death from swine flu. Other countries are Britain (30 deaths), Spain (seven), Hungary, France and Belgium (all one).
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