Armenia has still not registered a single case of swine flu and has no plans yet to vaccinate the population, Health Minister Harutiun Kushkian said on Wednesday.
The H1N1 virus has infected millions of people globally, with more than 5,000 documented deaths and likely far more. The pandemic has already spread into all four countries neighboring Armenia: Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Turkey.
Turkey has been hit particularly hard, reporting its first death from swine flu on October 24. The death toll has rapidly climbed to 15 since then.
Speaking to journalists in parliament, Kushkian said medical authorities are mindful of these developments and have stepped up monitoring of people arriving in Armenia from neighboring states.
Individuals entering the country through border crossings and by air have for months been screened for possible symptoms of the disease such as fever. Each of them has to write down their contact details in a special form so that authorities can reach them in case they detect swine in a passenger who traveled with them.
“Suspicious cases are registered practically every day,” said Kushkian. But he said none of them has turned out to be H1N1 so far.
Kushkian also made clear that the Armenian government will wait for “15-20 days” before deciding whether to purchase newly developed swine flu vaccines. “The vaccines have only just been manufactured in Russia, Europe and the United States and there is conflicting data about their effectiveness ,” he explained. “When know for certain that they are safe and can be used for treatment, we will acquire them.”
In the meantime, added the minister, the Armenian Ministry of Health and medical services will continue to rely on Tamiflu, the more conventional anti-virus drug.
The medication has not proved strong enough to stop the potentially deadly virus from rapidly spreading around the world. Officials at Armenia’s State Hygiene and Anti-Epidemic Inspectorate subordinated to Kushkian’s ministry warned this summer that chances of it reaching Armenia will increase markedly in the autumn and winter months, which traditionally see an upsurge in seasonal flu cases.