Two more people are suspected of having died of swine flu in Armenia in recent days, one of the country’s leading hospitals said on Tuesday.
Artur Rustamian, the executive director of Yerevan’s Erebuni Medical Center, told RFE/RL that laboratory tests are underway to finally determine the cause of the deaths that occurred in the private hospital.
“We can give the exact cause only after having the test results,” he said. “One of the dead persons was 60 years old, while the other was relatively young.”
The Armenian Ministry of Health reported on Monday the first two officially confirmed cases of people succumbing to the H1N1 virus. One of them died at Erebuni.
The total number of swine flu cases recorded by the ministry and health agencies subordinated to it rose to 86 by Tuesday evening. Ministry officials said more than a third of them have been registered in the past week.
Ara Asoyan, Armenia’s chief epidemiologist, again downplayed the resulting health risks for the population, saying that the virus is not life-threatening in at least 95 percent of cases. “Many people just drink team with lemon and resort to other forms of traditional treatment and recuperate without even knowing that they were infected with H1N1,” he told RFE/RL.
Erebuni’s Rustamian made a similar point. He said H1N1 may well be no more dangerous for life than other, conventional types of influenza. According to the Ministry of Health, the so-called seasonal flu killed three people last month.
Liana Torosian, a senior ministry official, said November saw a 40 percent year-on-year rise in “acute respiratory diseases” that can be caused by swine flu. But she said the incidence of such diseases has declined in recent days.
“There is also downward trend in ambulance calls at the moment,” added Torosian. She attributed that to the government’s decision to close schools and kindergartens across Armenia from December 8-19.
The first swine flu case detected in the country in early November prompted the authorities to ask the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international agencies to bring forward the planned delivery of newly developed vaccines against the virus. The Ministry of Health expects to receive the first batch of the medication next month.
Asoyan made clear, however, that the authorities will not rush to vaccinate vulnerable sections of the population. He argued that the precise effects of the vaccines have yet to be ascertained around the world.