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H1N1 death toll rises to three

A 46-year-old expatriate who died while undergoing treatment at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Malé on Sunday night was the third fatality from the H1N1 flu virus this year.



A 46-year-old expatriate who died while undergoing treatment at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Malé on Sunday night was the third fatality from the H1N1 flu virus this year.

The IGMH spokesman told local media that the Bangladeshi man was brought to the capital from the northern island of Kulhudhufushi after his condition deteriorated. He was undergoing treatment at the intensive care unit when he passed away.

The two previous victims were a 27-year-old man who died on March 4 and a 51-year-old woman who died last week. Both were Maldivians.

According to statistics made public by the Health Protection Agency on Monday, 147 out of 411 suspected cases have tested positive for the H1N1 type of influenza virus.

Some 22 patients were also hospitalised as of Sunday.

Schools and state universities were closed last Tuesday on the advice of the health authorities after surveillance testing revealed that H1N1 was spreading rapidly amid a seasonal outbreak of the flu and viral fever.

According to the health ministry, about 3,000 flu and viral fever cases a week were previously reported across the Maldives, but the number of cases rose to about 5,000 a week on average in late February.

The HPA’s latest figures show that flu clinic consultations nationwide has fallen from a peak of 2,649 on Thursday to 1,733 on Sunday.

Since the 2009 pandemic when it was a new strain, the H1N1 “swine flu” virus is now “similar to any other influenza and not any more severe or dangerous,” the HPA previously explained.

Most people who are infected recover in less than two weeks, but children under five years of age, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with chronic conditions such as lung or heart diseases are at risk of developing life-threatening complications like pneumonia.

The two tertiary hospitals in Malé set up makeshift flu clinics and began vaccinating pregnant women. The vaccine is also available for pregnant women at atoll and regional hospitals.

The ADK private hospital also launched a mobile flu clinic and on Monday began offering vaccination to cancer patients and people who have had transplants.

Government offices, independent institutions, and state-owned companies meanwhile approved paid leave for pregnant women last week.

On Monday, IGMH also temporarily suspended non-emergency surgeries that require admission in the intensive care unit. The government-run hospital said the number of patients that require admission has been increasing.

Last week, IGMH set up a 24-hour flu clinic at the nearby Thajuddeen school as well as a special ward at the hospital for flu patients that require admission.

On Sunday afternoon, the government’s Aasandha health insurance office meanwhile set up stations at the Billabong school in Malé and the Hulhumalé hospital to vaccinate persons with disabilities and thalassemia patients.

According to state media, it was an initiative of the first lady, who bought the vaccine and has also been distributing masks and flu medicine across the Maldives.

Sri Lanka’s The Sunday Times meanwhile reported that the quarantine division at the Bandaranaike International Airport has stepped up surveillance for Maldivians, thousands of whom travel to the neighbouring country every year.

Citing the quarantine department, the paper said up to 300 incoming passengers were referred to the health desk, and about 105 showed symptoms of the H1N1 virus.

Sri Lankan Airlines also announced on Thursday that it has activated Communicable Disease Procedures on flights operating in and out of Malé.

“Accordingly the crew will be wearing face masks and will provide a face mask to any passenger who requests one to wear during a flight,” the airline said.

“These proactive measures have been taken in the best interest of all our passengers and crew.”