10/28/2009, 00.00
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Swine flu: mass vaccination for pilgrims going to Makkah

Chinese authorities are planning to vaccinate all 12,700 pilgrims going on Hajj. The United Arab Emirates plans to do the same. Local authorities have already stockpiled 900.000 doses. In South Korea, health officials are sounding the alarm bell after eight people die in just two days. WHO releases its latest data on the pandemic, updated to 18 October.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Beijing has already launched its mass vaccination campaign against the swine flu among Chinese Muslims, many of whom will go on Hajj (pilgrimage) to Makkah next month. A similar step has been taken in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where 900,000 doses have already been stockpiled. This comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) releases its latest data (updated to18 October). At least 5,000 people have died so far from the disease, whilst 415,000 have been infected.

China has confirmed a third death on Sunday; a patient died from swine flu in Xinjiang, the far western region with a large Muslim Uyghur population.

To avoid the spread of the virus among Muslims, all of China's 12,700 Muslims making pilgrimage to Makkah this year will be inoculated against swine flu.

In Ningxia, a province in northwestern China where ethnic Muslim Hui are concentrated, some 2,000 pilgrims have already been vaccinated. Each person paid 5 yuan (US$ 0.73) for equipment costs.

Health authorities in Beijing said that said 35,664 cases of swine flu have been reported on the mainland as of Monday, with 2,600 new cases since Friday. Three deaths have been reported in Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiang.

A few days before the start next month of Hajj, the major pilgrimage that every adult Muslim must make at least once in his or her lifetime to Makkah, health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have already begun a national vaccination campaign against the A-H1N1 virus. About 900,000 doses of the vaccine are available. Pilgrims, medical staff, pregnant women, the elderly and children will get priority treatment.

WHO officials released figures as of 18 October about the evolution of the flu pandemic.  At least 5,000 people have died so far in the world. About 415,000 have been infected. South-East Asia has had 573 dead and 41,513 cases. In the Western Pacific, more than 122,000 cases of contagion have led to 455 deaths. In the Eastern Mediterranean, the number of cases has reached 15,000 with 96 dead, more than in Africa (75)

In Mongolia, authorities announced two people died from the A-H1N1. A total of 1,681 people have been diagnosed as infected with the influenza or influenza-like diseases. Hospitals in Ulan Bator have received 630 additional beds, and 12 respiratory machines. A team of 28 doctors has been set up. Under orders of the health minister, they are required to work 24 hours a day.

Alarm bells are also being sounded in South Korea, where “the A-H1N1 virus is spreading fast,” the Health Ministry said in a statement, adding that people should “carefully follow instructions to prevent the disease”.

The sense of urgency is even greater after health officials announced that eight people have died of the A-H1N1 flu in the first two days of this week,.

Hospitals specially designated by the Health Ministry to treat the disease have become crowded with patients and their capacities may soon been stretched to the breaking point.

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