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January 21, 2011
Irish ambulance crashed carrying swine flu patient
By Victoria McMahon
BELFAST, Ireland — The ambulance that crashed down a 30ft embankment was carrying a seriously ill mum with swine flu, it emerged last night.
The revelation came as health chiefs yesterday confirmed the virus had killed four people here in the past week.
In Wednesday's crash a doctor, believed to be an anaesthetist, suffered serious head, neck and chest injuries.
Medical staff were taking the sick mother of two from the Erne Hospital in Enniskillen to Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital when the ambulance was involved in a collision with a flat-bed lorry and overturned near Brookeborough in Co Fermanagh.
The patient, from the Omagh area, is understood to have been sedated for the journey and was uninjured.
The female doctor was being treated in hospital yesterday, however the Western Health Trust said no details of her condition were being released.
Four other people - two ambulance crew and two nurses - were treated at the scene.
The ambulance had been under police escort at the time of the accident at around 3.30pm.
The Police Ombudsman has been informed and are investigating.
Meanwhile, health bosses at the Public Health Agency said there have been four more swine flu deaths since last Thursday, bringing the H1N1 death total to 21.
That does not include the two-year-old from the Republic who died while being cared for in an intensive care unit in Belfast.
The victims include a 10-month-old boy who is one of 18 who had underlying medical conditions. Health chiefs insist one case is still unclear while the other two victims were otherwise healthy.
Since last week, one further person has died from the Influenza B virus which is a different strain of flu.
Health bosses said the number of cases has passed its peak but those with underlying health conditions are still vulnerable.
Director of public health Dr Carolyn Harper added pressure is easing on services with fewer GP consultations.
She said: "We expect to see further swine flu deaths but it is reassuring the level of cases in new patients is decreasing."
Those in the 15-44 age group are still suffering the highest infection rate.
There has also been an increase in GP consultations for newborns to four-year-olds but that is not due to swine flu but another illness called Respiratory Syncytial Virus.
Dr Harper added: "If the current trend continues, the peak of this year's flu season has passed."
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