Situation in Eastern Europe – November 2, 2009

Reports of infections and deaths from the Ukraine which appear to be due to pandemic flu continue to increase. The exact number of H1N1 cases, hospitalisations and deaths is unclear. However, one recent report suggests that at least 15,000 have been hospitalised, 170 are in ICUs and 7o are dead. There are unconfirmed rumors of many more dead of a disease so rapid and severe that local doctors believe that it is pneumonic plague. Rapid destruction of the lungs led doctors back in 1918 to initially confuse Spanish Influenza with pneumonic plague. It is possible that the severe pathology being observed in Ukraine today may be misleading physicians into believing that the disease they are observing cannot possibly be flu. Whatever is actually happening in Ukraine, the authorities there appear to be taking it seriously. School closures, bans on public gatherings and movement restrictions have all been enacted to stem the spread of infections.

In Romania, an outbreak occurred in a hotel in Sinaia. 40 people were reported infected. The infected guests and staff, all adults, were transported to a hospital where they are being treated. The hotel has been closed. All hospitals in Romania are now under quarantine. Ukrainian officials in some oblasts have requested that borders with Romania be closed.

Slovakia has closed some borders with Ukraine.

Poland has sent medical supplies to Ukraine and requested that the European Union provide additional aid to Ukraine. Poland is considering closing its border with Ukraine.

Only 59 pandemic flu cases and no deaths have been reported by official sources in Belarus. However, there have been unconfirmed reports by bloggers that the Belarusian government is hiding pandemic deaths.

Bulgaria and Turkey have both reported recent increases in numbers of cases and deaths.

The situation in Russia is unclear. Previous reports suggested that the Russian authorities were hiding cases and deaths. However, 10 deaths have now been reported in Russia.

Although Russia has some capacity to produce its own vaccine, most countries in Eastern Europe do not. Although Ukraine has asked for, and received, some Tamiflu and surgical masks, this is unlikely to cover more than a small portion of the need. We may soon see the true lethality of the new H1N1.

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