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H1N1 death toll rises to 13 in Burma

“A woman died of the H1N1 virus this morning. That raises the death toll from this strain of influenza to 13,” Burma’s Ministry of Health and Sports announced yesterday.

“As of midday on 2 August, 284 people have been hospitalised with respiratory tract infections. Ninety-nine of those were diagnosed with H1N1 and 13 have died of the virus. The fatality rate is 4.5 percent.”

The ministry added: “Control measures are ongoing. During a one-day period from 1 August to 2 August, 39 patients who were suspected of contracting the disease were tested. It was confirmed that 23 of them are infected. Nineteen of those H1N1-infected patients are currently receiving treatment at Waybargi Infectious Diseases Hospital [in Rangoon] while the other four are being treated at Yangon General Hospital. To date, no health workers have contracted H1N1 from patients.”

Today, it was reported that Daw Sein Sein, the head of Pyapon General Hospital in Irrawaddy Division, was diagnosed with the virus, though public health department officials said it was not contracted from a patient.

“She was infected with the H1N1 virus not because she was exposed to patients, but because she was very tired and her immune system was weak,” Dr. Than Htun Win told DVB.

Sein Sein was taken to Waybargi Hospital where her condition is reported to be “not critical”.

Also today, a 45-year-old man and a 16-year-old girl in Pegu were diagnosed with H1N1 and admitted to the local hospital for treatment.

Despite the rising number of casualties, Dr.Than Htun Aung, the deputy director of the Department of Infectious Diseases, told a press conference in Rangoon on Sunday that the government had no intention of declaring a state of emergency. Health officials in Burma have sought to calm fears among the public over the outbreak of H1N1, also known as swine flu.

They point out that H1N1 has been among the strains of flu circulating in Burma seasonally since a global pandemic in 2009, although deaths from the virus have not been reported in recent years.

Also on Sunday, the annual Taung Pyone festival in Mandalay was called off due to fears of spreading the virus.

Burma’s livestock ministry has also reported an outbreak of H5N1 bird flu in the south of the country. More than 1,800 chickens were culled after the virus was detected last month at a farm in Dawei, 370 kilometres (230 miles) southeast of Rangoon.