Swine flu in Asia: schools deserted and new outbreaks reported as the authorities call for calm
A Malaysian doctor says the virus “is less potent and virulent” with 90 per cent of patients showing “mild” symptoms. In the United Arab Emirates 60 per cent of kindergarten and primary school pupils stay away on the first day of school. South Korean announces nine million vaccinations. The swine flu is suspected in deaths in India and Israel
Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The swine flu is “not as dangerous or fatal as anticipated”, said a Malaysian doctor. It “seems to have become attenuated as it spreads through communities and nations, and has become less potent and virulent.” Still more deaths are reported in Israel, the South Korean government is planning mass vaccinations, India has confirmed 128 new cases, and in the United Arab Emirates 60 per cent of kindergarten and primary school pupils stay away on the first day of the new school year.

“In some nations influenza A is declining,” Dr Diong Ko Ing, from Sitiawan district, told the Malaysia Star, a sign that the flu “will probably burn itself out, just like other pandemics or epidemics”. Although “almost 95 per cent of all flu-like illnesses are Influenza A (H1N1), [. . .] over 90 per cent, are mild to moderate cases, which respond to simple ordinary flu treatment.”

In the Southern Hemisphere, most countries—such as Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia—appear to have passed their peak of influenza activity, WHO officials said last Friday.

However, many countries in tropical regions in Central America and Asia continue to see increasing or sustained high levels of H1N1 influenza activity. Some of them are reporting moderate strains on their healthcare systems.

In Europe and Central Asia, influenza and respiratory disease activity remains low overall, with some countries experiencing localised outbreaks.

The school year began today in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). About 60 per cent of all families have kept their children home for fear of the flu. Kindergarten and primary schools for Asian immigrants were the most affected. Those who did go to school wore a mask. But about 70 per cent of high school students were at their desk today.

A 30-year-old pregnant woman was the UAE’s second flu casualty, but doctors were able to save her child, who appears to be in good health.

In South Korea the authorities have announced that more than 9 million people, those who are most at risk of contracting the influenza A virus, will get free vaccinations. They include about a million medical and quarantine personnel, 7.5 million school children and 660,000 soldiers. In recent days the government sent envoys to Europe to buy supplies.

In India 128 more people tested positive for the swine flu, taking the total number of H1N1 cases to 3,881. Health Ministry officials suspect that two deaths in Maharashtra might be due to swine flu but the lab confirmation report is not in yet.

Israel also reported two more deaths, but health authorities have not confirmed that swine flu was the cause. The first case is that of a 62-year-old man suffering from a serious chronic condition; the other concerns a 49-year-old man who was obese and had a chronic lung problem.

If H1N1 virus is confirmed the two would be the 17th and 18th Israeli victims of this strain of influenza.