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Switzerland registers first swine flu death

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

The five-month-old infant died at the weekend, but it was only after tests had been carried out that it was known 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, health officials said .

Thomas Zeltner, head of the Federal Health Office, expressed his condolences to the child's family, saying that the death of a child was always "terrible".

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, he warned that cases of the H1N1 influenza were currently increasing in Switzerland, and that the rise will continue in the next few weeks.

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

At-risk groups include the chronically ill, pregnant women, children with previous health problems, and medical staff.

Ten cantons have already started to vaccinate non-priority groups, Zeltner said, and more than three million doses should be available by the end of next week.

He said provision in Switzerland is very good in international comparison.

Despite the first death, he refused to speak of a "crisis".

The office will publish new figures on the spread of the epidemic on Thursday.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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