Ukraine sounds swine flu alarm

Ukrainian health authorities have announced that there is a flu epidemic in the country, and is most likely swine flu. Dozens have died and thousands have symptoms of the disease.

“Judging by the preliminary data, Ukraine is now in the global pandemic zone and we have epidemics of the ‘Californian flu’ or A/H1N1 influenza,” Health Minister Vasily Knyazevich announced.

Ukraine is going to ask the international community for help and to provide it with the necessary medicine, masks and medical ventilators, the Council of National Security and Defense said on Friday.

So far, 30 deaths in Ukraine have been attributed to some kind of influenza, and at least one of them tested positive for the A/H1N1 virus. More lab tests are expected later next week.

“Express-tests cannot provide a hundred percent verification of the virus, they give only 50% accuracy. That’s why blood probes of those who died were sent to special laboratories for further testing. And only this morning it was confirmed that at least 11 deaths were caused by the A/H1N1 virus,” announced Prime Minister Timoshenko.

Over a thousand people are now in hospitals with flu symptoms, and eleven people are known to have the new strain.

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Nine regions in Ukraine, which were most affected by the flu epidemics, have declared a quarantine. Schools and universities have been closed for three weeks and people are advised to avoid public places. Public servants were ordered to wear masks while on duty under penalty of fines.

The government may also limit traveling in the country to curb the spread of the virus, Prime Minister Timoshenko said on Friday. Officials also say they are monitoring drug stores to prevent a possible surge of prices for anti-flu medicines. The demand for them has already surged.

President Yushchenko has estimated that Ukraine needs more than $6 million to fight the epidemics, and has demanded that the government allocates the money.