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Russia reports its first deaths from swine flu

Three women have died from the H1N1 virus, health officials say. Since June, about 1,300 cases have been reported. Despite assurances, residents of one city where two of the deaths occurred are tense.

October 28, 2009|Sergei L. Loiko

MOSCOW — Russian medical authorities on Tuesday reported the first three deaths in the country from the H1N1 influenza virus.

Two women, 29 and 50, died in Chita, a provincial capital about 3,900 miles east of Moscow, Russia's chief sanitation official Gennady Onishchenko told Interfax news agency.

Late in the afternoon, Deputy Health Care Minister Veronika Skvortsova told Echo of Moscow radio station that a third woman died in Mos- cow.

"The situation is under control and not significantly different from the usual seasonal flu situation," Viktor Maleyev, deputy chief of the Central Research Institute of Epidemiology, said in a telephone interview.

Since June, about 1,300 cases of H1N1, commonly known as swine flu, have been registered in Russia, Maleyev said, adding: "There is absolutely no reason for panic as the epidemic so far has been spreading fairly slowly."

His optimism was not shared by residents of Chita reached by phone. Valentina Fialko, a 53-year-old nurse, said residents were tense.

"People are scared after it was announced on television news that two people already died of this flu," Fialko said. "There are noticeably less people in the streets and on public transport today.

"I would rather stay at home, but I have to go to work by bus and I wear a protective mask at all times," Fialko said. "People try not to talk to each other if they can avoid that."

Maleyev said flu vaccine was on the way and that officials plan to start a mass vaccination campaign next month.

"Yes, we are a little late with that, but it takes at least six months to prepare the vaccine once you get the virus stocks," Maleyev said. "And we managed to get hold of the first stocks here only in June so we are on schedule with the vaccine."

Maleyev said several hundred people contracted the virus in Chita and several other Siberian cities, and some schools were closed.

"We hope to reopen these schools again soon," he said. "Usually the epidemic lasts no longer than a week to 10 days at a particular place."


Loiko is a Times staff writer.

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