An outbreak of swine flu, which struck Armenia late last month, is under control, the Ministry of Health insisted on Monday after the H1N1 virus killed two more people in the country.
The ministry also continued to downplay an upsurge in other, less severe acute respiratory diseases that has led to the hospitalization of more than 650 Armenians, most of them children, since the start of the New Year.
Ministry officials said 83 of them remain in intensive care. Ten of them are in a severe condition, officials said without elaborating. It was not clear whether they are suffering from swine flu.
According to a spokeswoman for Health Minister Armen Muradian, there were 89 officially registered swine flu cases in the country as of Friday. Two more people died from the dangerous virus over the weekend, raising the H1N1 death toll to 6.
“There is no epidemic in the country,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement issued on Monday. “Analyses conducted by a rapid reaction group formed by the ministry show that the overall number of cases is virtually unchanged as of now,” it said.
“We are continuing to take preventive measures,” added the statement. “Hospitals and policlinics have been provided with necessary medication and materials.”
Acting on Muradian’s recommendation, Education Minister Armen Ashotian announced late last week that winter school holidays in Armenia have been extended by one week, until January 18.
The mass hospitalizations appear to have raised fears among many Armenians. Taguhi Stepanian, the head of Yerevan’s public ambulance service, reported a record-high number of phone calls received by the service in recent days. “On January 7, for example, we had 956 calls, which is unprecedented for our service,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
In Stepanian’s words, as many as 6,700 Yerevan residents suspecting flu symptoms called an ambulance from December 31 through January 7. The vast majority of them did not require hospitalization, she said.