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26 Apr, 2009 15:22

Russia takes steps to combat deadly swine flu

Russia has tightened preventive measures to stop the spread of swine flu, which has already killed at least 81 people in Mexico. Anyone arriving from North America with symptoms of the deadly virus will be quarantined.

Meanwhile, swine flu cases were confirmed in New York on Sunday while potential cases were reported from New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Spain.

Also, Russian authorities have limited imports of pork from Mexico, a number of U.S. states and the Caribbean.

Russian Chief Veterinarian Inspector Nikolay Vlasov told Itar-Tass:

"We have blocked the delivery of pork from the area between Colombia, California and Florida."

In addition, it’s now prohibited from bringing any kinds of meat products into the country carried in the hand luggage of air and sea passengers traveling through Mexico and the U.S. states of Texas, California, and Kansas.

Russian chief sanitary doctor Gennady Onishchenko, in an interview with Vesti-24 channel, said that even though the disease is not fatal when quickly diagnosed and treated, it’s still not recommended to travel to Mexico.

Also, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has set up a governmental commission to prevent the spread of swine flu in the country.

‘Pandemic potential’

According to Margaret Chan, the Director General of the World Health Organization, the "situation is evolving quickly”.

"We do not yet have a complete picture of the epidemiology or the risk, including the possible spread beyond the currently affected areas," she said.

"In the assessment of the WHO, this is a serious situation that must be watched very carefully. It has pandemic potential," Chan said.

According to the WHO, swine flu is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by one of several swine influenza viruses. Although swine flu viruses usually infect only pigs, they sometimes infect humans.

Russia’s Chief sanitary official, Gennady Onishenko, said all pan-epidemics in the 20th century had the same pattern, starting from birds then passing to pigs and, only after that, spreading to humans.

"The situation is slightly different this time: three types of viruses – H5 bird virus and H3 and H1 swine viruses blended. On the one hand, we are dealing with the old H1 virus, but it has totally different characteristics,” he said.

However, he noted, this virus is less dangerous than H5. The chief sanitary doctor called on Russians not to panic.

"If the virus is brought to Russia… our services will be on the alert and ready to act appropriately," he said.

People have no immunity

Oleg Kiselyov, director of the flu institute in Russia’s city of St. Petersburg, said that people so far have had no immunity to the virus that has struck over a thousand people in Mexico.

"According to experts, the H1N1 flu virus…is a combination of bird, swine and, possibly, human viruses. It also resembles the virus which caused the 1918 flu epidemic," he said.

"As for Russia, there will be no flu problems this spring, summer or fall," Kiselyov predicted.


Russia’s Rospotrebnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Consumers Protection) has published a list of symptoms of the dangerous virus. Those include: headache, high temperature, myalgia, cough, angina, rhinitis, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.