Staff at a Cape Breton nursing home are mourning the loss of a colleague — the province's first death linked to the swine flu virus.

Annette Sampson died early Friday at a Halifax hospital.

Margaret Morrison, administrator of Richmond Villa in St. Peters, said Sampson was much loved by both residents and staff, and will be greatly missed.

"She saw the best in everybody and saw some good in every situation," Morrison told CBC News.

Sampson was a continuing care assistant at Richmond Villa for 32 years. In late June, she began to develop flu symptoms and stayed away from work, Morrison said.

Anyone with these symptoms is urged to stay home for seven days:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Fatigue.
  • Sore throat.

Sampson had been at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax for the past couple of weeks.

Public health officials confirmed Friday that a woman in her 50s had died, but didn't identify her. They said she was admitted to hospital two weeks ago with the swine flu and had underlying health conditions.

No other information was released.

Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief public health officer, said officials had expected an H1N1-related death.

"We anticipated seeing severe cases and deaths, and we anticipate that this will continue," he told reporters. "This sad event is a reminder to all of us that this H1N1 pandemic in Nova Scotia is very serious and the outbreak is not over."

There have been 456 confirmed cases of the virus in Nova Scotia since the outbreak began in April. Ten people have been treated in hospital.

Strang said most cases have been mild and most patients have recovered at home.

He said public health officials continue to monitor the spread of the virus in the province and the death of one patient will not change their approach.

Dr. Ken Buchholz, a Health Department adviser, said officials are assessing the ICU capacity across the province and counting the ventilators on hand.

District health authorities are also implementing plans to recruit replacement staff and begin mass immunizations when a vaccine become available.

Nova Scotians are urged to protect themselves by:

  • Washing hands thoroughly.
  • Cleaning common surfaces like counters.
  • Covering up when sneezing, coughing.
  • Staying home if ill.

Morrison said staff at Richmond Villa dusted off their pandemic plan months ago as public health officials continued to alert Nova Scotians about the H1N1 outbreak. Anyone with flu symptoms was told to stay home.

Morrison said none of the residents have symptoms. Though some staff members became sick, she said, none are confirmed to have the virus.

As of Wednesday, 55 people in Canada had died as a result of H1N1, most of them in Ontario and Quebec. None were in Atlantic Canada.

Strang said about 4,000 Canadians die every year of various flu viruses.