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Baby is first in Switzerland to die of swine flu

A baby has died of swine flu, the first fatality from the virus in Switzerland, officials in canton Basel Country have announced.

The almost five-month-old infant died on the weekend. Tests confirmed that the baby had the H1N1 virus, authorities said.

The baby boy had other health conditions, including a cleft lip and palate, a heart problem and a possible immune deficiency, which had made him weaker, said health officials.

The Federal Health Office said last week that the number of swine flu cases in Switzerland was rising "exponentially". The number of new cases of swine flu this week has leapt to 773, twice as many as last week.

Some 15 patients had been taken into intensive care and several tens of thousands of people across the country had been infected with the H1N1 influenza virus, the Health Office said. There was also a marked increase in cases among those aged 19 and younger.

A national voluntary immunisation programme has started, with the at-risk groups being targeted first. The rest of the population will follow from November 23.

The World Health Organization says over 6,250 people worldwide have died of swine flu since the outbreak began in spring. and agencies