Ukraine pleas for help as flu epidemic spreads
Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko has called on the international community to help the country combat the swine flu epidemic which hit the country last week. Kiev is taking emergency measures to stop the outbreak.
The president has sent letters to the European Commission, NATO’s Secretary General, and the heads of Belarus, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the US asking for humanitarian aid, said the presidential press service. Ukraine needs antiviral medicine, medical masks, lung ventilators and other equipment. Several countries have already agreed to help, while Russia offered aid on its own initiative.
Ukrainian government has made an emergency purchase of Tamiflu medicine from Switzerland. A shipment of 300 million doses, worth $2.5 million, was airlifted on Sunday night. According to the president’s press service, the seller offered a discount price for Ukraine.
The medicine will be delivered to hospitals and medical emergency service to treat flu patients. “We’ll have a double or triple stock, but not in drug stores to prevent speculative trade,” announced Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko. She added that a second purchase of a similar amount of medicine is being considered.
Meanwhile, the epidemic is spreading over the country. The Health Ministry says 53 people have died over the last week from flu and other respiratory diseases. Almost 185,000 people are suffering, and more than 7,000 have been transferred to hospitals. Of those, 123 are in critical condition.
It is not clear how many of the people affected have the A/H1N1 strain. Ukraine has too small a number of laboratories to be able to identify the swine flu virus and has to rely on foreign services, which makes the testing process even longer. The government plans to purchase more equipment to monitor the epidemic more efficiently. A mission of the World Health Organization is to arrive in Ukraine soon to help combat the outbreak.
So far quarantine has been declared in nine regions that are most affected by the disease. Schools and universities have been closed until further notice, and people are advised to stay at home and keep away from crowds.
There are some fears that the epidemic will harm the presidential election campaign which is currently underway in Ukraine. The election is scheduled for January 17, and with restrictions on public assembly, which some politicians have suggested imposing due to the outbreak, campaigning may become difficult for candidates. However, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Turchinov assured that the outbreak will not stop the election. “Despite temporary difficulties with the spread of the infection, the election will go smoothly,” he said.
Source: Russia Today