Swine flu: Seoul in panic, hunts for vaccines
by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
Government officials on a mission to Europe to negotiate the purchase of antiviral drugs. Schools and colleges postpone the start of the academic year, teachers and students returning from abroad can not participate in lessons. In the United States between 60 and 120 million cases of infection forecast by the end of 2009.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - Institutes and Schools postponed the start of the school, students and teachers returning from abroad prevented from attending classes; government officials on a mission to Europe to buy stocks of vaccine. In South Korea the panic mounts for swine flu that, so far, has infected 3113 people in 188 in one day yesterday.

With the approach of autumn and the first spread of influenza epidemics, the South Korean government decided to double by year’s end its’ stocks of antiviral drugs, to ensure medical care for  20% of the total population.  

Seoul has also allocated additional funds for the purchase of vaccines. Lee Jong-koo, director of the Korean Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has reached Brussels, Belgium, to negotiate the purchase of medicines with the British pharmaceutical giant Glaxo Smith Kline, then he will go to Lyon, France Headquarters of Sanofi Pasteur, the world's largest producer of vaccines.  

Meanwhile, school principals and teachers are inviting students returning from abroad not to participate in lessons. Schools have launched an awareness campaign to explain the preventive measures to contain the H1N1virus. In Geoje, the city where the first case of new flu was registered, 16 schools out of 17 have postponed opening to the first of September. The South Korean Ministry of Education has announced a state of quarantine for 38 institutes across country, for possible cases of infection among students.

 In recent days the World Health Organization forecast an "explosion" of the H1N1 virus, capable of hitting a third of the world population over the next two years. An alarm raised by U.S. health authorities, in a report dedicated to the new flu, warns of "between 60 and 120 million Americans affected by the virus by the end of 2009." Experts estimate up to two million hospitalizations and 90 thousand deaths throughout the country.  In Thailand, the government prevention campaign continues in anticipation of the change of season. "The spread of the virus has declined - said Manit Nopamornbodee, deputy-minister of health - but we must remain vigilant. In October, with the change of season, a rise in infections is possible”.

Kuwait MPs are urging the government to postpone the opening of schools after the confirmation of the third death from swine flu in the country. The victim is a boy of 17 years, overweight and with a pulmonary infection.   The official Iranian news agency Fars, quoting government sources, reported that "half of the 238 cases of swine flu in the country have been registered in pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia." Tehran has announced the production of a vaccine within a year.

 
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