No panic after swine flu death

Health authorities have announced the death of an otherwise healthy student who tested positive for swine flu, the first death due to the virus in the country.

Health authorities have announced the death of an otherwise healthy student who tested positive for swine flu, the first death due to the virus in the country.

Spokesperson for the Department of Health Fidel Hadebe said yesterday: "He died on the 28th (of July), but there had to be some testing to ensure the cause of death. It was the H1N1 influenza."

South Africa's swine flu caseload has increased fourfold in two months, with 480 confirmed cases as of Friday. The first case in the country was reported on June 14.

Western Cape health MEC Theuns Botha said the death was "unusual" as the 22-year-old student, named as Ruan Muller, had no underlying health problems.

A student at Stellenbosch University near Cape Town, Muller fell ill on July 20 and went to a campus clinic for treatment. His condition did not improve and he then saw a general practitioner.

As he remained ill he later saw another doctor who referred him to a private hospital for treatment by a specialist.

"He was treated as a case of Atypical Pneumonia. On July 27, his condition deteriorated and he was moved to the intensive care unit where he died on July 28 ," Hadebe said.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases said yesterday laboratory tests had confirmed swine flu had killed him.

Botha said the Western Cape has 42 confirmed cases of the illness.

"I want to reassure our public that there is no need to panic. The student who lost his life did not have an underlying medical conditions, or compromised immune system. His death was unusual, and an overwhelming number of people who contract the virus recover," Botha said.

The country's swine flu plan includes a contingency for closing on a case-by-case basis. Health officials are encouraging those with mild symptoms to stay home and recover. - Sapa-AFP

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