H1N1 Cases Increase In China, Japan; Afghanistan Attempts To Contain Virus

The WHO on Friday reported on a rising number of H1N1 (swine flu) cases in China and Japan, Reuters/Washington Post reports. “In China, after an earlier wave of mixed influenza activity (seasonal H3N2 and pandemic H1N1), pandemic H1N1 influenza activity now predominates and is increasing,” the agency said. “Sharp increases in pandemic flu infections continue to be reported throughout Japan, particularly on the northern island,” the news service writes (Nebehay, 11/6).

An increase in the number of H1N1 cases in Afghanistan has led the country’s Ministry of Public Health to appeal for $125 million in funds to help contain the virus, IRIN reports. According to the Ministry of Public Health, there have been more than 400 new cases of H1N1, including eight H1N1-related deaths, in the country since November 3, the news service writes. While the country had received no funds as of Sunday, Ministry of Public health spokesperson Farid Raaid said the WHO pledged 550,000 doses of H1N1 vaccines (11/8).

VOA News reports on the decision by the Afghan government to suspend the country’s schools and universities “for most of November in response to an increased number of H1N1 flu cases” (Maroney, 11/8).

“In the past few days, the government has ramped up its response to the epidemic, Raaid said,” McClatchy reports. “Most of the 456 cases among Afghans — and all the fatalities — have occurred in Kabul. Friday, his ministry distributed flu medicine and 10 tons of related medical supplies to 34 hospitals and clinics in the capital.” The article includes information about the government’s effort to contain the virus through public awareness campaigns and treat patients with antivirals (Price, 11/8).

Saudi Arabia Won’t Ban People At High Risk For H1N1 From Hajj, Health Minister Says

During the launch of a national H1N1 vaccine campaign in Saudi Arabia Saturday, Saudi Health Minister Abdullah al-Rabeeah said the kingdom would not ban people considered to be high risk for H1N1 from attending the hajj, the Associated Press reports. Rather, “al-Rabeeah said it is the responsibility of individual countries to enforce recommendations by international health experts that children, the elderly and pregnant women forgo this year’s pilgrimage,” the news service writes.

“Al-Rabeeah said a million doses of the vaccine will cover the first stage of the campaign,” according to the AP. “Pilgrims residing in Saudi Arabia, health workers and other officials involved in hajj, especially in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, top the vaccination priority list” (Abu-Nasr, 11/8).

CNN reports that Al-Rabeeah was the first person in the country to receive the H1N1 vaccine, “in a televised event aimed at calming fears about the safety of the vaccine.” Al-Rabeeah’s daughter and other government officials also received the vaccine, according to the news service.

“The vaccinations became a thorny issue in Saudi Arabia and some neighboring countries after the government strongly recommended the vaccine to people coming to the country for the hajj, a pilgrimage required of Muslims at least once in their lives,” CNN writes, adding, “Saudi’s Health Ministry said it hoped televising the health minister rolling up his sleeve for the shot will help calm fears” (11/7).

In other news, “Israel’s Civil Administration announced on 5 November that it had transferred 5,000 pandemic H1N1 vaccinations to Gaza for Hajj pilgrims leaving to Saudi Arabia via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt,” IRIN reports in a second story. “Israel allowed 20,000 doses of the vaccine into Ramallah in the West Bank for the same purpose,” according to the news service (11/8).

Los Angeles Times’ blog, “Booster Shots” examines global efforts to contain H1N1 (Maugh, 11/8).

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