Oct 30, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – Ukranian officials today shuttered schools and banned public meeting for the next 3 weeks in the wake of a spike in pandemic flu and the country's first H1N1 deaths, which have sparked speculation that the disease has become worse in some patients or that another pathogen is circulating.
Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko announced that the spikes in virus activity were affecting three parts of western Ukraine where large number of respiratory illnesses have been reported since the middle of October, Reuters reported today.
She said the emergency order banning public events also applies to political rallies. She is running as a candidate in the presidential election against other candidates, including current President Viktor Yushchenko. Both candidates have cancelled election events.
Yuschenko told reporters that 11 people have died of pandemic H1N1 infections, though the health ministry said it has confirmed only 1 death, according to the Reuters report. The National Radio Company of Ukraine (NRCU) reported that two labs have confirmed 11 pandemic H1N1 cases, but it didn't mention the number of deaths.
Meanwhile, Polskie Radio, based in Warsaw, reported today that more than 2,000 people have been hospitalized and that 33 had died from an unknown virus in the Ukraine. The report said Polish health officials are monitoring the outbreak.
Though authorities in Poland have not ordered border closures, they are advising those traveling to the Ukraine about how to protect themselves from the flu.
The report identified the hardest hit areas as the Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Lviv regions.
For at least the past week contributors to influenza news blogs and message boards have been translating Ukranian news sources to sift for clues about the Ukraine's spike in respiratory diseases.
One translated report posted on the Flutrackers message board said some of the fatalities were young people who had severe hemorrhagic pneumonia. A regional health chief was quoted in one of the translated stories as saying autopsy revealed lungs soaked with blood.
CIDRAP News was unable to confirm if officials from the World Health Organization had sent a team to assess the flu outbreak in the Ukraine or if experts from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had been asked to consult on the outbreak. No information was immediately available from the US Embassy in Kiev.
Oct 30 Reuters story
Oct 30 NRCU report
Flutrackers Ukranian outbreak thread