Alberta woman who died had swine flu, health officials confirm

The death of a woman in northern Alberta is the first confirmed death in Canada associated with swine flu, Alberta health officials said Friday.

The death of a woman in northern Alberta is the first confirmed death in Canada associated with swine flu, Alberta health officials said Friday.

"We have our first fatality in Alberta that's associated with the H1N1 flu," Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. André Corriveau said. "I would like to begin by offering my sincerest condolences to the family of a northern Alberta woman who passed away recently." 

The woman had chronic pre-existing health problems and had not travelled to Mexico. She died on April 28. It is not clear what role, if any, the virus played in her death and that might never be clear, Corriveau said.

She lived in the community of Gift Lake, where officials have set up a temporary assessment centre.

The cause of death at the time was linked to her existing medical condition, but she was tested for swine flu after another family member from the same community contracted a mild form of the illness. The confirmation came back from the provincial lab on Thursday afternoon, Corriveau said.

Earlier reports indicated an elderly woman had died, but Corriveau said the woman was in her 30s. He would not say what community the woman was from.

The relative who was sick lived in the same house as the woman who died. It is not clear who was ill first but there are indications the woman may have been sick first.

A pathologist will take a closer look at the woman's lung tissue but that report won't be available until next week, said Dr. Gerry Predy, the senior medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services. The province will not release what underlying medical condition the woman had.

About 300 people attended the woman's funeral, which took place in what Predy described as a remote community.

"At the funeral there was a lot of activity where there could have been exchange of respiratory secretions, people hugging, kissing," he said.

Nurses have been sent to assess people in the community. Anyone with symptoms who has an underlying medical condition that could be complicated by swine flu will be treated with Tamiflu, Predy said.

Alberta also announced an additional eight confirmed cases of swine flu on Friday, bringing the provincial total to 42.