Influenza H1N1 death toll hits 102 in Myanmar

Department of Public Health workers hand out masks and pamphlets about influenza A (H1N1) at a teashop in Lanmadaw township, Yangon, in this undated photo. Photo - EPA. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

YANGON, Aug 26, 2019, Myanmar Times. The Ministry of Health and Sports said on Friday that 102 deaths have been caused nationwide so far this year by the virus designated as influenza A(H1N1)pdm09. Another 580 people are being treated for the virus in government hospitals, ministry officials said during a press conference on Friday, reported the Myanmar Times.

The deaths this year include 66 of the 264 H1N1 cases at government hospitals in Yangon Region, 13 in Ayeyarwady Region, nine in Bago Region, three in Magwe Region, three in Sagaing Region, three in Mon, two in Rakhine, one in Kachin State, one in Shan State and one in Tanintharyi Region, according to the Public Health Department’s Central Epidemiology Unit.

Most of the victims in Yangon were in South Dagon township, which had 24 H1N1 cases and five deaths, and Hlaing Tharyar townships, which had 20 H1N1 cases and six deaths, according to the National Health Laboratory.

“We have held awareness campaigns during the flu season, and encouraged the inoculation for high-risk people such as the old, young, those with weakened immune systems.

“Thankfully, the current situation appears to be that cases of seasonal influenza in the region are declining,” Dr Ye Linn Naing, assistant director of the Yangon Region Health Department, said.

“However, the public should continue to heed the Ministry of Health and Sports’ announcements and instructions about the dangers of seasonal influenza,” Dr Ye Linn Naing added.

Yangon Region Health Department officials visited the homes of victims and monitored family members for about 10 days and are working with township officials to monitor and send to government hospitals any suspected cases.

According to the Central Epidemiology Unit and National Health Laboratory, 81 of the flu deaths were tied to conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and chronic respiratory diseases.

Another 10 deaths were among people in high-risk group such as those under five or over 65, while eight deaths were from influenza alone.

Among patients confirmed to have suffered H1N1, 54 percent were aged 15 to 65 years, 16pc were one to five, 11pc were over 65, 13pc were five to 15, and 6pc were less than a year old.

H1N1 is a strain of seasonal influenza among many circulating flu viruses and is an acute respiratory infection caused by viruses that circulate throughout the world, according to the World Health Organization. July to September each year is influenza season in Myanmar, coinciding with the monsoon. The virus spreads from one person to another through fine droplets when people cough or sneeze, or through contact.

“I think monitoring and treatment are the key parts to dealing with the situation. Of course the other part is the Ministry of Health and Sports providing vaccinations where needed,” said WHO representative to Myanmar Stephan Paul Jost.

WHO also recommends seasonal influenza vaccinations as especially important for high-risk groups such as pregnant women, who are highest priority, children aged 6-59 months, the elderly, individuals with specific chronic medical conditions, healthcare workers and laboratory workers.

“I was here also during the 2017 flu season and again last year. This year, I think public awareness is improving thanks to good information management by the national authorities and the better monitoring of the situation,” Jost added.

Flu signs and symptoms are a sudden onset of fever above 38 Celsius, coughing, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat, and a runny nose. Most people recover from the fever and other symptoms within a week without requiring medical attention.

WHO says that hand contamination followed by direct mucosal transmission of the virus is another possible source of transmission.

Ministry officials said 38 deaths were reported during the H1N1 outbreak in Myanmar in 2017, and 406 people were confirmed to have been treated at government hospitals for the virus.

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