Myanmar Asks WHO to Help Fight H1N1 Virus

By Htet Naing Zaw 27 July 2017

NAYPYITAW — Myanmar’s government requested help from the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday after the H1N1 influenza killed six out of 20 confirmed cases in the country, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports.

The ministry sent an official report to the WHO, outlining its needs to help control the virus, said deputy director general of the Public Health Department Dr. Than Tun Aung.

“We asked WHO to provide medicatios as well as vaccines and funds for medical services if possible. We also asked for diagnostic tools and preventative things. They will give us these, and they won’t neglect us,” he told The Irrawaddy.

The deputy director general also said that the government would seek international assistance, including from the UN, China and the United States.

Union health minister Dr. Myint Htwe will hold a national level meeting on prevention and treatment of H1N1 influenza flu—often referred to as swine flu—with international medical experts and local and foreign physicians at the Nursing University in Yangon on Sunday in order to adopt short- and long-term plans.

“We’ve not yet decided whether or not to conduct vaccinations. The prevention rate of the vaccine is no more than 60 percent. And the government is short on its budget to buy and provide vaccines,” said a health officer from Naypyitaw who asked for anonymity.

He said the meeting on Sunday would perhaps decide whether or not to conduct a vaccination campaign.

So far, 20 H1N1 cases have been confirmed—eight in Yangon, one in Irrawaddy Region’s Pyapon Township, one in Pegu Region, and 10 in Chin State’s Matupi Township.

Of them, five in Yangon and one in Matupi have died. Two children were admitted to Yankin Children’s Hospital in Yangon on Wednesday after being suspected of contracting H1N1.

One of them was H1N1 positive and another was suffering from H3N2 seasonal flu, according to the health ministry.

Countries in the region including China and the Philippines have enquired about the H1N1 outbreak in Myanmar, stated the ministry, adding that it is carrying out checks at airports, seaports, and border gates to ensure the virus does not spread outside the country.

Dr. Than Tun Aung said the health ministry is working its hardest to prevent the virus from growing into a public health emergency.

“Whether the disease will become worrying depends on the people. If the people follow our instructions, it will have the least impact. But if they don’t, it may spread more easily. If they go to crowded places like parties, they are more likely to contract the virus,” he said.

The health ministry has also dispatched public response teams to places where H1N1 was discovered, and is keeping the hospital staff and patients under surveillance. It has also prepared to send the infected patients to a specialized hospital in Yangon’s North Okkalapa Township.

“In case the patient dies, we prohibit those who had lived together with him or her from travelling. And we have to keep them under home medical surveillance. They also need to take care of themselves,” said Dr. Than Tun Aung.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.