The Irrawaddy

H1N1 Flu Outbreak in Myanmar Linked to One Death

Women wear masks in Yangon to protect themselves against an outbreak of H1N1 influenza. (Photo: Thet Tun Naing / The Irrawaddy)

NAYPYITAW — Thirteen people have contracted A (H1N1) influenza in Yangon and Chin State’s Matupi Township, with one thought to have succumbed to the virus, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports.

In Chin State, one of the 10 people diagnosed with H1N1 since early July has died. Two patients are receiving treatment for H1N1—often referred to as swine flu—in the intensive care unit of Yangon General Hospital.

Another patient is receiving treatment for the disease at New Yangon Hospital, according to the deputy director-general of the Public Health Department, Dr. Than Htun Aung.

“It is not swine flu or avian flu. It is a strong seasonal flu that affects humans. It can be cured with prevention and early treatment, but it is strong. Children and elderly persons will be vulnerable to this type of flu,” Than Htun Aung told reporters in Naypyitaw.

Health minister Dr. Myint Htwe and other ministry officials discussed short- and long-term plans to prevent the disease on Monday morning.

“We’ll inform hospitals how to carry out prevention work, and educate people through State media about the disease,” said a health officer who attended the meeting.

The ministry confirmed the outbreak as H1N1, saying that Myanmar saw 16 infections in 2009, 232 in 2010, 29 in 2012, 169 in 2013, three in 2015, and nine in 2016. No cases of infection were reported in 2011, said the ministry.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared H1N1 a pandemic in 2009 as it was spreading fast around the world.

“This disease is called world human flu. It broke out as a pandemic in 2009, and it still persists in Myanmar. Now there are continuous rains, the weather is damp, and the disease easily spreads in populous areas. Though it is strong, fatality rates for the disease are low,” said Than Htun Aung, who is also in charge of the pandemic and disaster resilience division under the ministry.

The flu vaccine invented in the aftermath of the 2009 outbreak is unsafe, according to the ministry, which has not used it but instead focused on prevention.

“People would go to private clinics in the case of infection, meaning there is a need for private clinics to report to us. If necessary, we have to do X-ray, blood, and saliva tests and administer medicines depending on the severity of the virus,” said Than Htun Aung.

H1N1 has broken out annually since 2009, he explained, but awareness and in turn fear of the disease has grown recently. The three patients in Yangon are recovering, he said, and urged people to exercise caution but not panic.

H1N1 flu symptoms are the same as seasonal flu, including cough, fever, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, body ache, headache, chills and fatigue.

The health ministry has encouraged people to wear masks and wash their hands frequently, cover mouths when coughing and sneezing, and avoid crowded places.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko