Florida confirms swine flu death

MIAMI — A 9-year-old boy who died in a Miami-Dade hospital last week had swine flu, officials said Tuesday.

Officials did not disclose the boy’s name, school or hometown, but they said he lived in Miami-Dade County.

Dr. Fermin Leguen, chief physician for the county’s health department, said the boy was brought to Baptist Hospital in Kendall on June 9 within 24 hours of showing flu-like symptoms. The boy died at the hospital the same day. “This child had a history of asthma,” said Leguen. “He had developed an acute respiratory illness.”

After the boy died, health officials sent tissue samples to a Florida Department of Health Laboratory in Tampa. It took a week to confirm the boy had contracted the swine flu virus.

He died about four days after he was last in school, Leguen said, adding that health department officials were trying to contact school personnel.

Miami-Dade School Board officials wouldn’t immediately comment on the case Tuesday.

State health officials say Florida currently has 417 confirmed cases of the swine flu virus, including 143 in Miami-Dade County.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends of this child,” said Florida Surgeon General Dr. Ana Viamonte Ros, in an e-mailed statement. “While most cases of H1N1 swine flu are mild, there are exceptions like this tragic case,” she said.

Also Tuesday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said there are five confirmed cases of swine flu at the Krome detention center outside Miami, with 20 more detainees exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Two people from Jamaica and one each from Brazil, Peru and Mexico have confirmed cases, said ICE spokeswoman Nicole Navas.

On June 11, the World Health Organization raised the worldwide pandemic alert level to Phase 6 in response to the ongoing global spread of the virus. As of June 12, there were 17,855 cases and 45 deaths attributed to the swine flu in the United states.

Meanwhile, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told The Associated Press on Tuesday that schoolchildren could be first in line for swine flu vaccine this fall — and schools are being put on notice that they might even be turned into shot clinics.

Sebelius said she is urging school superintendents around the country to spend the summer preparing for that possibility, if the government goes ahead with mass vaccinations.

“If you think about vaccinating kids, schools are the logical place,” Sebelius told The Associated Press.

No decision has been made yet on whether and how to vaccinate millions of Americans against the new flu strain that’s circulating the globe. But because younger people so far seem most susceptible to this new flu, Sebelius says school-age children could be among the first groups targeted for the shots.