TORONTO – A Canadian woman with swine flu has died, a health official said Friday, but he noted that she also had serious underlying medical conditions.
Dr. Andre Corriveau, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said it's the first death associated with the swine flu in Canada.
He said when the woman, who is in her 30s, visited a hospital in Alberta last month, she had a number of medical conditions and doctors did not diagnose her with swine flu at the time. Corriveau would not elaborate on the medical condition, but said they could have predisposed her to getting a more severe influenza infection.
She died on April 28.
Physicians decided to test her remains earlier this week after a relative who had been in contact with the woman before her death reported a mild form of swine flu on May 5. Those tests came back positive.
"We confirm that infection was swine flu but again, the cause of death of is still being investigated but certainly it's associated with this strain," said Dr. Gerry Predy, Senior Medical Officer of Health for Alberta Health Services.
Corriveau said he could not comment on what role the virus played in her death, but officials are conducting further tests to determine the extent to which it was a contributing factor.
Officials said she did not travel out of the country recently and they could not confirm whether she had been in contact with anyone who had recently returned from Mexico, the epicenter of the swine flu virus.
Corriveau said 300 people who attended the woman's wake are being monitored for any signs of the illness.
In total, there are 224 confirmed cases of swine flu in Canada and nearly all have been mild.
A total of 44 people have died of the flu strain in Mexico and two in the U.S.
Corriveau stressed that several thousand Canadians die each year from the flu.
"This virus is spreading like any other influenza. We get 4,000 deaths from the influenza virus a year. This is the first one we can document related to swine," Corriveau said.