The first suspected cases of swine flu have been detected in Armenia, health officials said on Monday, urging the population not to “panic.” (UPDATED)
They said blood samples from three persons possibly infected with the H1N1 virus were promptly sent to a World Health Organization (WHO) laboratory in London for a final test the same day.
“We can not officially confirm the cases until the London laboratory gives an answer,” Shushan Hunanian, a senior official at the Armenian Ministry of Health, told RFE/RL. She said the matter was discussed at an emergency meeting of a ministry task force dealing with swine flu that was called by Health Minister Harutiun Kushkian.
In Hunanian’s words, two of the infected individuals are Armenian citizens from the town of Echmiadzin. They were hospitalized after a mandatory screening at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport where they arrived from Moscow, she said. The third person is an Iranian national who came to Armenia from Ukraine, added the official.
According to Armenia’s Hygiene and Anti-Epidemic Inspectorate, the Iranian has already received necessary treatment and is now “completely healthy.” “This is only a suspected case that needs to be examined by the WHO laboratory in London before we can be sure whether or not we have a [swine flu] case,” said Liana Torosian, a senior official at the agency subordinated to the Ministry of Health.
“There is absolutely no need to worry or panic,” Torosian told RFE/RL. “The precautionary measures taken since April 2009 are continuing in an even stricter regime.”
Hunanian also saw “no need to panic,” saying that the Armenian medical services are “prepared” to cope with the H1N1 pandemic and will now seek to acquire newly developed flu vaccines “as soon as possible.” “We are looking for different ways of getting the vaccines,” she said. “We are negotiating with both international organizations and vaccine-producing companies.”
Minister Kushkian said last week that the authorities will wait for “15-20 days” before deciding whether to purchase the medication. He also said they have stepped up the monitoring of people arriving in Armenia from neighboring states.
All of them have reported swine flu cases in recent months. Turkey has been hit particularly hard of late, reporting at least 15 swine flu deaths in the last two weeks.
Individuals entering Armenia through border crossings and by air have for months been screened for possible symptoms of the disease such as fever. They have to write down their contact details in a special form so that authorities can reach them in case they are found to have traveled with a passengers infected with H1N1.