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First influenza cases detected

Pregnant women, children bellow 12 and adults over 65 years old, and people suffering from chronic diseases are restricted from Umra and Hajj rituals in 2009 because of concerns about spread of H1N1 virus
Akmal Dawi/IRIN

The first cases of H1N1 2009, known as swine flu, have been registered in Afghanistan and Kazakhstan, while some other countries have increased surveillance measures at border crossing points, health officials say.



In Afghanistan, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) confirmed 29 cases, all among international military forces based around the country. The influenza has not been reported among Afghan nationals.



All 29 patients received treatment and have gone back to work, Sayed Mohammad Amin Fatimie, Afghan Health Minister, said on 28 July.



In May, the World Health Organization (WHO) donated 30,360 adult courses of Tamiflu capsules (costing US$500,000) to MoPH for pre-positioning in all 34 provinces.



The MoPH has set up a strong surveillance system, including diagnostic laboratories in Kabul, and 154 influenza monitoring and reporting centres.



Meanwhile, a decision by the Afghan government on 27 July imposes restrictions on the travel of the elderly, minors, pregnant women and those suffering from chronic illnesses in a bid to prevent the spread of H1N1 during the Umra and Hajj season.



“Hajj has been restricted to people below 65 and above 12 years old… pregnant women and people suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart problems are also restricted from Hajj this year,” Fatimie said. The Hajj and Religious Affairs Ministry said about 30,000 Afghans will perform the Hajj in 2009.



“Every Afghan Hajji must receive at least three types of vaccination – meningitis, polio and general flu vaccination - and if a vaccine for the swine flu is made available in the market before the Hajj period, that will be the fourth prerequisite,” Fatimie said.



In Kazakhstan, 13 H1N1 cases were registered in the capital Astana on 27 July, Zhandarbek Bekshin, head of Astana’s sanitary-epidemiological surveillance authority, was quoted by the Central Asian News Service as saying.



Most of the cases were schoolchildren who had been to the UK for training, the media reports said.



In Kyrgyzstan, laboratory facilities able to test and confirm the H1N1 virus are on stand-by and Tamiflu stocks for 10,000 patients have been made available thanks to support from the WHO, Sabirjan Abdikarimov, the country’s sanitary surveillance body chief, said on 27 July.



A consignment of several thermal scanning cameras has been ordered for use at major border crossing points and airports to identify cases of H1N1.



In Uzbekistan, surveillance measures have been increased in eastern Andijan province, bordering Kyrgyzstan, following the reports of swine flu cases in Uzbekistan’s northern neighbour Kazakhstan, the Uzbek health portal reported on 28 July.



No cases have been registered so far in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.



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