Darina Calpin (right): first victim

More deaths from the H1N1 swine flu virus are likely here if infection rates continue to rise as expected in the coming months, the Health Service Executive (HSE) warned.

As the country's first victim of the virus was yesterday named as 18-year-old Darina Calpin from Sligo, a spokes­woman for the HSE said there were no projections available as to the potential number of swine flu deaths in Ireland.

But while the virus will be relatively mild for the vast majority of sufferers, she said authorities here have been planning for possible deaths from the virus for some time, and that it was likely that more deaths will occur from swine flu.

Darina Calpin, who suffered from cystic fibrosis, died in Tallaght hospital in Dublin on Friday after contracting the virus in the community. She had been in an individual room at the hospital from the time she was admitted.

Her family were understood to be considering whether to release a statement to the media yesterday, after her name and photograph appeared in a national newspaper.

Meanwhile, it has emerged six students attending an Irish-language college in Donegal had to be sent home after contracting swine flu.

The students, who come from Northern Ireland, were part of a group of around 300 attending Coláiste Mhuire Loch an Iuir in Donegal and are recovering at home.

Separately, the Sunday Tribune has learned the Department of Social and Family Affairs is asking swine flu sufferers to provide a medical certificate when applying for illness benefit. This is despite concerns that it could significantly increase the pressure on GPs in the event of a widespread pandemic here.

In a similar approach to that adopted by Ibec and the Small Firms Association, a spokeswoman for the department said all claims for illness benefit "require certification to validate the claim and this requirement continues to exist".

She said the department is monitoring the situation "on an ongoing basis" and has to date received only a small number of claims for illness benefit from swine flu sufferers.

Dr Ronan Boland, chair of the Irish Medical Organisation's GP committee, called on the department to "give the lead" on this issue amid ongoing confusion as to whether people should be attending their GP to obtain a medical cert for swine flu

A high-level interdepartmental planning group is expected to consider the matter and issue a recommendation shortly.