Ukraine In Panic Over Swine Flu
As WHO Team Analyzes Cases
Ukraine is in
a panic about swine flu, with officials closing schools, imposing
travel restrictions and limiting public gatherings. Yet many suspect
that politics, not health issues, are behind the uproar.
The World Health Organization said Monday there is no evidence that
Ukraine's outbreak is particularly severe, leading some political
analysts to say Ukraine's politicians are using the swine flu scare
to earn political points ahead of the country's presidential election
The health minister, Vasyl Knyazevich, warned on Friday that nationwide
quarantines could be imposed as the virus is spreading "extremely
On Monday, his ministry said 67 people have died of flu, but
it did not specify how many of deaths were related to swine flu.
In any case, that is a tiny number in a country like Ukraine,
which has a population of 40 million.
of the regular seasonal flu claim 50,000 lives each year.
At the government's request, the World Health Organization has
sent a team to help Ukraine deal with the outbreak.
"But this is not an indication that the situation is severe,"
said WHO spokeswoman Liuba Negru. "The information we have
gotten (from the government), we have to double-check it and make
sure it is real evidence-based information."
On October 28th, 2009, the Ministry of Health of the Ukraine informed
WHO, through its Country Office in Ukraine, about an unusually
high level of activity of acute respiratory illness in the western
part of the country, associated with an increased number of hospital
admissions and fatalities.
On October 30th, 2009, the Ministry of Health of the Ukraine
announced the confirmation of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus infection
by RT-PCR in eleven out of 30 samples obtained from patients presenting
with acute respiratory illness in two of the most affected regions.
Tests were performed in two laboratories in Kyiv, including the
National Influenza Centre. Confirmatory tests will be performed
at one of the WHO Collaborating Centres for Influenza.
Over 2,300 individuals have been admitted to hospital, including
over 1,100 children. One hundred and thirty one (131) cases have
required intensive care, including 32 children. As of 31 October
2009, a total of 38 fatalities associated with severe manifestations
of Acute Respiratory Illness (ARI) have been registered. Preliminary
epidemiological data analysis indicates that severe cases and
deaths primarily occur among previously healthy young adults aged
20 50 years. Fatal and severe cases are reported to have
sought medical attention 5 to 7 days after onset of symptoms.
International experience of the (H1N1) 2009 pandemic to date,
especially from the Southern Hemisphere, has shown that poor clinical
outcomes are associated with delays in seeking health care and
limited access to supportive care. In addition, this virus has
also shown its ability to cause rapidly progressive overwhelming
lung disease which is very difficult to treat.
Public health measures recommended by the Ministry of Health
of the Ukraine across the entire country include: social distancing
(school closures and cancellation of mass gatherings); enhancement
of surveillance activities; increased respiratory hygiene; and
continuation of the vaccination campaign against seasonal influenza
targeting at risk groups.
The Government of the Ukraine has activated coordination mechanisms
to respond to the rapidly evolving situation, including the harmonization
of response plans across all administrative levels.
In response to the request from the Minister of Health of the
Ukraine, WHO is deploying a multi-disciplinary team of experts
to assist national authorities in mitigating the impact of the
pandemic. The team comprises of the following expertise: health
emergencies coordination, case management, epidemiology, laboratory
diagnostics, logistics, and media/risk communications.
As per WHO's communication in May 2009, there is no rationale
for travel restrictions because such measures will not prevent
the spread of the disease.
Travellers can protect themselves and others by following simple
recommendations aimed at preventing the spread of infection such
as attention to respiratory hygiene. Individuals who are ill should
delay travel plans and returning travellers who fall ill should
seek appropriate medical care. These recommendations are prudent
measures which can limit the spread of many communicable diseases
and not only the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus.
Reference Sources 102, www.who.int
November 3, 2009