Death toll still rising in Ukraine's flu outbreak
Nov 5, 2009, 12:38 GMT
Kiev - The death toll in Ukraine's flu outbreak continued to rise on Thursday.
A total of 95 persons have died from flu-related symptoms since the disease struck Ukraine's western provinces late last month, said Zinovy Mytnik, vice health minister, in comments reported by the Interfax news agency.
A total of 633,877 Ukrainians nationwide have registered with health authorities as suffering from the flu, though some have recovered since the disease's late October outbreak, Mytnik said.
Ukraine's Ministry of Health on Wednesday gave a total of currently infected at some 470,000.
The particularly virulent A/H1N1 flu strain, or swine flu, was likely responsible for a significant proportion of the infections, based on laboratory testing thus far, Mytnik said, speaking at a Kiev press conference.
Since the beginning of the flu outbreak, Ukraine's Health Ministry had sent 31 samples from persons infected with flu to a British laboratory to be checked for the presence of swine flu, of which 15 tested positive.
A former Soviet republic, Ukraine lacks a modern public health infrastructure and, since the beginning of the flu outbreak in late October, has seen severe shortages of even simple medical supplies such as protective masks and flu remedies.
No Ukrainian laboratory is capable of testing for the presence of swine flu, Mytnik said.
International medical assistance continued arriving in Ukraine on Thursday, with European Union nations taking the lead. Top contributors were Slovakia, Austria, Hungary and Poland - the last being the first country to respond to a Ukrainian October 31 appeal for foreign aid, according to an Intefax report.
EU-donated medical supplies en route or already in Ukraine included protective masks, respiration equipment and surgical gloves.
Emergency shipments of the swine flu treatment Tamiflu, produced in Switzerland, first began arriving by cargo plane to Ukraine on Sunday.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, on a visit to the western city of Chernovtsy, near the epicentre of the flu outbreak, said government efforts to control the flu's spread were working.
'There is no need to to invoke a national emergency,' she said, according to a Korrespondent website report.
Tymoshenko's government has attempted to control the flu outbreak with the imposition of a partial quarantine of eight western provinces most badly hit by the disease, a military-style mobilization of state-owned fabric and clothes factories to mass-produce protective masks, and limits to allowable public gatherings.
In the midst of a campaign for Ukraine's presidency, Tymoshenko has, since the beginning of the flu outbreak, repeatedly attacked the private health industry, accusing drug manufacturers of inflating prices artificially and pharmacists of hoarding medical supplies.
A government consumer protection agency in Lviv, one of the worst-hit cities in the flu outbreak, on Thursday filed a class-action suit against local health officials, accusing them of conspiring with private health suppliers to price-gouge consumers of medical supplies, the Unian news service reported.