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First related death

Fergus Walsh | 23:39 UK time, Sunday, 14 June 2009

The death of a woman suffering from H1N1 swine flu in Scotland is a sad reminder that this is not always a mild infection. This is not only the first confirmed death in Britain, but the first outside of the Americas.

But it is not a signal that the virus is getting more virulent or that people are at any greater threat. The vast majority of the 1,200-plus people who have had the virus in the UK have experienced mild symptoms and then fully recovered.

Throughout the world, swine flu does present a slightly higher risk to those with existing respiratory illness, asthma, cardiovascular disease and obesity. It's worth remembering that seasonal flu kills several thousand people in the UK each winter. The difference with H1N1 swine flu is that the virus is almost exclusively targeting people under 65.

It is likely that cases in the northern hemisphere may tail off in the summer months, with a much bigger outbreak in the autumn. The virus can't be stopped altogether, but everyone can help to slow its spread by observing simple hygiene measures, and by staying home if they get the virus.

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