Swine flu claims first child victim in Portugal.jpg

Swine flu claims first child victim in Portugal

By CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]

Portuguese health authorities have appealed for calm following the death of a child in Lisbon last week.

The sudden death of the 10-year-old boy was confirmed to be as a result of the A (H1N1) virus, which an autopsy showed had complicated an unknown but pre-existing congenital heart problem.

The Directorate-General of Health said in Lisbon over the weekend that the death “did not justify any changes in behaviour or plans,” while the Portuguese Society of Paediatrics added that it wasn’t necessary for parents whose children were exhibiting flu-like symptoms to “demand that they be hospitalised”.

“They will be given a blood test, anti-viral medicine and are in the first phase of vaccination. This was an exceptional situation and there are no reasons for a change in policy,” said Maria João Brito, from the SPP.

The child, named only as Adriano, died on October 28 at Lisbon’s Estefânia Hospital in what doctors said was a death that “couldn’t be avoided.”

The preliminary findings of the autopsy showed that the child had been suffering from muscular cardiomyopathy, literally heart muscle disease, where the heart muscle is congenitally weakened.  

“The patient could have lived for years with a weakened heart, with the asymptomatic problem going undiagnosed. It’s difficult to imagine the same situation arising twice,” said the hospital’s Clinical Director Gonçalo Ferreira.

“Cardiomyopathy can cause sudden death among apparently fit people like professional athletes and sports players,” said the Minister for Health, Ana Jorge, rejecting criticism that the child had not been treated promptly.

The boy had first been taken to Francisco Xavier Hospital on Monday after complaining of feeling unwell and exhibiting a mild temperature. He was sent home after being medicated since he had not “presented serious symptoms”.

He was later taken to the Casualty Department of the same hospital on Tuesday night showing symptoms of flu and then taken to Dona Estefânia Hospital.

Reacting to criticism, the President of the Portuguese Society of Paediatrics argued that the São Francisco Xavier Hospital had followed “all the rules” laid down for diagnosing and treating the virus.  

The following day, a 50-year-old-man, who suffered from a chronic illness, also succumbed to the A (H1N1) virus at Ponta Delgada Laurindo Frias Hospital in the Azores, making him the fifth victim of the A (H1N1) virus.

In the Azores case the victim had been admitted to hospital on Wednesday last week with “serious breathing difficulties” complicated by an associated chronic disease.

The total estimated number of flue victims from both seasonal and A (H1N1) strains has topped 20,000 in Portugal according to Portuguese Health Department statistics.

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