WHO sends team to Ukraine as flu cases rise

Nov 2, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed yesterday that it was sending a team of experts to help the government of Ukraine, where it said more than 2,300 people have been hospitalized for what is suspected to be pandemic H1N1 influenza and 38 have died.

Today a Ukrainian health official put the death toll from flu and acute respiratory illnesses at 67, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report. Deputy Health Minister Vasyl Lazorysynets said the country has had 255,000 cases of flu and respiratory illness, with 15,000 people hospitalized, AFP reported.

The reports follow the government's decision on Oct 30 to close schools and ban public meetings for 3 weeks because of the steep rise in suspected H1N1 cases.

The health ministry said only 22 cases have been confirmed as H1N1, with one death, according to the AFP report. But it said the country's National Security Council put the death toll at 4.

The WHO said the Ukraine Ministry of Health confirmed the H1N1 virus in 11 of 30 patients from two of the most affected regions, using tests in two Ukrainian laboratories. The WHO planned to run confirmatory tests at one of its collaborating centers.

The agency said the 2,300 hospital cases reported as of Oct 30 included more than 1,100 children, and 131 patients, including 32 children, needed intensive care.

The WHO reported that 38 deaths associated with "severe manifestations of acute respiratory illness" had occurred as of Oct 31. Preliminary analysis indicates that "severe cases and deaths primarily occur among previously healthy young adults and aged 20 to 50 years," the statement said.

Yesterday Ukraine made an urgent appeal to world powers for help in battling the pandemic, after announcing that 60 people had died of respiratory disease and flu, the AFP story said.

Poland, Ukraine's neighbor, urged the European Union to act swiftly to help the country, saying it was in EU members' best interest to send medical aid, AFP reported. Meanwhile, Slovakia closed two pedestrian border crossings with Ukraine and ordered spot medical checks at others, the story said, citing the SITA news agency.

The WHO, in its statement, noted once again that travel restrictions are not recommended because they will not prevent the spread of the disease.

The AFP report said alarm over H1N1 has become a political issue in Ukraine as it prepares for a presidential election in January, with rival candidates seeking to show leadership in battling the disease.

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko today said Ukraine is suffering an epidemic of normal flu with a few cases of H1N1, AFP reported. She charged that "the unscrupulous statements of certain politicians" were causing panic.

See also:

Nov 1 WHO statement

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