H1N1: Health official says Armenia still “Swine Flu free”

Armenia still remains unaffected by the world’s latest outbreak of swine influenza, according to a representative of Armenia’s Health Ministry.

All of Armenia’s regional neighbors, meanwhile, have reported swine flu cases.

Reports about H1N1, or swine flu as it is commonly known, affecting humans first came in April this year. Since then, the virus, according to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) report, has affected a total of about 300,000 people (as of September 18) around the world. Such countries as Mexico, the United States, the United Kingdom and others have been affected most of all. The WHO has so far reported 3,486 confirmed deaths from swine flu. The organization has been keen on providing an effective vaccine to contain the spread of the disease that many fear may grow into a rampant killer unless restrained.

Laboratory tests for six suspected swine flu cases in Armenia did not confirm the presence of the disease. Still, healthcare workers urge the population to be cautious, since the risk of swine flu penetration, they say, remains high at this time of the year when regular seasonal flu is common.

Liana Torosyan, chief specialist at the Health Ministry’s State Hygienic Anti-Epidemic Inspection, said at a press conference on Thursday that the risk is particularly high in Armenia that is surrounded by countries where swine flu cases have already been reported. Besides, according to her, many Armenian migrant workers in another affected country, Russia, choose this time of the year for temporarily returning home.

“For this reason the preventive measures that were taken still in April have been stepped up,” said Torosyan.

According to Torosyan, stricter controls have also been put in place at the borders, including at the Zvartnots and Shirak air terminals.

“We already have two thermal imaging detectors at Zvartnots Airport. They make it possible to reveal passengers who have a high running body temperature from a distance,” the epidemiologist said.

Torosyan also said that Armenia possesses the necessary supply of a flu prevention and treatment medicine, Tamiflu, which was provided to the contagious diseases hospital “Nork” in Yerevan as well as to the regional centers of the State Hygienic Anti-Epidemic Inspection.

H1N1 flu signs and symptoms are very similar to those of a regular flu (fever, headache, muscle aches, cough, sore throat and others). For this reason, the WHO advises people to seek professional aid at the first signs and symptoms of a regular flu and not to make attempts at self-treatment or use Tamiflu without medical prescription.

Torosyan said that a laboratory analysis is required in order to diagnose the disease. She said this analysis in Armenia is made free of charge.

Armenia is also taking steps towards purchasing a vaccine for H1N1. According to Torosyan, the Armenian Health Ministry has turned to the WHO and corresponding structures in Russia to supply this material at the very first convenience. She said that if this supply proves insufficient, Armenia will take steps to purchase additional vaccines.

Vaccination will be conducted among the first risk group, such as medical workers in primary health centers, ambulance crews and workers of first-aid clinics, pregnant women as well as people suffering from chronic diseases.

Only the United States and China have so far been engaged in preparations and conducting of mass vaccinations for swine flu. Russia is still at the stage of experiments with vaccination.