The rapidly spreading swine flu pandemic may finally reach Armenia in the coming months and its medical authorities are prepared to deal with the disease, a senior official said on Thursday.
Unlike at least two if its neighbors, Turkey and Georgia, Armenia has yet to report a single case of the H1N1 virus among its residents. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the potentially deadly virus “unstoppable,” saying its spread to more countries of the world is inevitable.
Thousands of Armenians are spending their summer vacations in Turkey and Georgia. Many more of them travel to Russia, which is being increasingly hit by swine flu, on a regular basis.
“Of course, the entry of swine flu into our country can not be ruled out,” Liana Torosian, a senior official at the State Hygiene and Anti-Epidemic Inspectorate, told RFE/RL “There is tourism, there is a [cross-border] movement of the population.”
Torosian said that the autumn and winter months, which traditionally see an upsurge in seasonal flu cases, will further increase chances of Armenia being affected by the pandemic. “But even in the event of a virus detection, we have the necessary levers and resources to ensure proper treatment,” she said.
The official stressed that Armenia has already stocked up on the Tamiflu anti-virus drug. “The Nork Infections Hospital [in Yerevan] has been supplied with Tamiflu,” she said. “Tamiflu has also been delivered to the regional branches of the State Hygiene and Anti-Epidemic Inspectorate. If necessary, regional hospitals will quickly get that medicine.”
The Armenian sanitary authorities reported wide-ranging precautions against swine flu shortly after its first outbreak in Mexico last April. Those included a ban on meat imports from some countries and a screening of individuals arriving in the country.
Earlier this month, swine flu was detected at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport in a Georgian woman flying from London to Tbilisi via the Armenian capital. According to Torosian, all passengers on board the plane who disembarked in Yerevan were examined and monitored by medics for the next seven days. None of them was found to have caught the disease, she said.
WHO has tallied more than 130,000 infections around the world so far. It said Monday the worldwide death toll has reached 816 since the start of the outbreak.