A second person has died after contracting swine flu in the West Midlands, health officials have revealed.
It comes as the Department of Health said 29 people in the UK had now died with the H1N1 virus – 26 in England and three in Scotland.
A post-mortem examination is now being carried out on the patient to determine whether swine flu was a contributory factor to the death, which is believed to have occurred over the past two days.
It is the second death following six-year-old Sameerah Ahmad, of Gillott Road, Edgbaston, who died at Birmingham Children’s Hospital while infected with the virus on June 26, but was seriously ill with Microvillus Inclusion Disease affecting the lining of the small intestine.
Sameerah’s death was referred to the Birmingham coroner, but under new Government rules, the latest case will not have an inquest.
An NHS West Midlands health authority spokeswoman refused to give any further details about the victim, or where they were from.
She added: “We cannot confirm whether swine flu was a contributing factor in the latest case as we are awaiting test results. We cannot also yet say whether this person was healthy or had underlying health conditions.”
The Health Protection Agency has estimated there were 55,000 new cases of people suffering flu-like illness in the last week with the NHS seeing a surge in calls and consultations. In the worst hit areas, hospitals have reported having wards full of children with swine flu, while GP practices have said they are seeing between 50 and 60 flu cases a day.
The Government has warned that deaths from swine flu this winter could be between 19,000 and 65,000 in the UK.
Cherie Blair, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, is one of those suffering from suspected swine flu and was forced to pull out of a series of public engagements, including picking up an honorary degree from Liverpool’s Hope University yesterdaydue to the illness.
Mrs Blair is believed to have caught the virus on Tuesday and has been given a course of Tamiflu and told to rest.
Ministers in England have promised the National Flu Service will go live at the end of next week to relieve pressure on hospitals and GPs.
The flu service will allow people to get access to anti-flu drugs by calling in or using the internet.
Health Secretary Andy Burnham, said: “From the end of next week, the National Pandemic Flu Service in England will be up and running to provide additional support to the NHS.
“The NHS is continuing to cope well thanks to the sterling effort of its staff, but as swine flu cases begin to increase we need to be able to give antivirals to greater numbers of people quickly.
“The flu service will be able to quickly diagnose people with swine flu and give them the opportunity to get antivirals from local centres, meaning in turn that GPs’ time will be freed up enabling them to deal with other illnesses.”
MPs will be updated weekly on how the swine flu pandemic is spreading across their constituencies over the coming months, Commons Leader Harriet Harman said.