Swine flu claims first victim in Westchester Co.

Health officials say a Yonkers woman died from the swine flu Thursday, becoming the first victim of the illness in Westchester, on the same day the World Health Organization declared a pandemic around the globe.

According to doctors, the 29-year-old victim had an underlying condition. Her name is not being released due to privacy laws.

Visits to the emergency room at St. John's Hospital in Yonkers have increased by 50 to 60 percent since the first reports of swine flu started coming in. Dr. Richard Marino expects that number to increase further now that the disease has reached a pandemic level, but he says there's no cause for alarm.

"It doesn't mean that it's anymore serious than it was a week ago," Marino says.

So far, 55 cases of the H1N1 virus have been confirmed in Westchester County, raising concerned amid local residents.

"My niece had it," says Jeremy Feurman, of Yonkers. "It passed on from one of my nieces to my next."

Doctors at the Westchester County Health Department say swine flu is treated like any other type of influenza. The pandemic classification is used by experts to track the spread of the virus.

"We are seeing activity here, there is flu circulating throughout Westchester County at this point, but there's no evidence it's different than seasonal flu," says Dr. Ada Huang, of the Westchester County Health Department.

The announcement by WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan came Thursday as infections climbed in the United States, Europe, Australia, South America and elsewhere to near 30,000 cases.

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