THE family of a little boy who died suddenly last week believe he is the first child to have been killed by swine flu in Ireland.
Little Mikey Connors passed away in Temple Street Hospital last Friday after being suddenly taken ill at his Clonroche home.
The heartbroken family of the four-year-old Wexford boy have been told that swine flu may have contributed to his death, and are awaiting post-mortem results to see if this is the case.
Today his heartbroken father Paddy wants to warn parents everywhere of the dangers of the virulent killer, and make sure they have their children vaccinated.
Young Mikey, who would have been five next month, first took ill at home and was taken to a local doctor, but by late last week his condition deteriorated rapidly and he was admitted to Wexford General Hospital.
"He was kept overnight in Wexford and took very bad. I had only got home when I got a call to go straight back," said Paddy Connors. "He was having seizures, and his colour went strange. His lips were white."
Paddy's brother Tom explained: "Then he was transferred to Temple Street and was put on a life support machine. He was unconscious. I went in with my wife Kitty, and we were in the corridor afterwards and we were told he had passed away. It was shocking."
Mikey had suffered from a liver condition from an early age and was used to being treated at Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin, but his health had improved as he got older.
"The doctors in Temple Street told us they think that swine flu might have caused his death. They said he would have been more prone to it because of his illness," Paddy told the Herald.
Post-mortem results, due in the future, will determine if the H1N1 virus was a factor in the little animal lover's death.
"I would appeal to any parent to keep a close eye on their children and get them vaccinated," said Paddy.
"Especially the kids that have other sicknesses or might be more prone to the swine flu. It's a terrible thing to go through and I wouldn't want anyone else to have to go through it."
The HSE has said it cannot comment on individual cases, and that swine flu would have to entered on the death certificate of a person before it could be verified they had died from the virus.
The number of swine flu cases in Ireland has almost doubled this week, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre. Twenty-eight people have now died from the illness, and in the past week doctors have diagnosed more than 9,180 new cases.
Paddy Connors said that his wife Kitty is so distraught that she can't eat or talk. "It's hit us very hard. It was so sudden," he said.
Paddy described Mikey as a "hot-headed youngster who loved animals".
"He wanted for nothing. He had ducks and chickens and everything. And he loved jungle animals and cartoons. He was a great little lad," he said.
Mikey's grandmother Mary 'Nanny' Connors said that the five short years they had with him were treasured ones.
Mikey had one younger brother, Johnny, who is 18 months old now.
The Connors family wanted to thank all the people of Clonroche for their support, especially in the Boru Inn and Jackie's Golden Fries chip shop.
"And we want to thank all the staff in the hospitals in Wexford, Crumlin and Temple Street as well," said Paddy.