Ukraine Flu Epidemic Slows

KIEV, Ukraine -- An epidemic of flu and acute respiratory disorders has slowed down in Ukraine, officials said Monday, as the World Health Organization warned of a possible second wave of infections.

Activists of Yulia Tymoshenko's Bloc hand out protective masks.

"In the last few days, the number of patients falling ill per day has fallen," Ukraine's deputy health minister, Vasyl Lazoryshynets, said at a news conference.

The number of new cases peaked on November 4 when more than 127,000 cases were registered. By Sunday, only 32,000 new cases were registered, Lazoryshynets said.

Almost one million Ukrainians have been affected by the epidemic since it started in mid-October. Around 49,000 have been hospitalised and 155 have died, Lazoryshynets said.

Among these, 65 cases of swine flu have been officially registered and 14 people have died of the A(H1N1) virus, a health ministry official tracking the epidemic, Mikhailo Golubchikov, told journalists.

A World Health Organization delegation has spent a week in Ukraine and on Monday met President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

A spokesman for the delegation confirmed the drop in new cases, but raised the possibility of a new wave of cases in the next few months.

"At the moment, we can see it has slowed down, but we cannot say whether it has been overcome," Christian Lindmeier told AFP.

"In general worldwide, we're thinking about three waves: one now, one in midwinter, in January and February, and one later," Lindmeier said. "In Ukraine, it's not clear how the virus will continue," he added.

Source: AFP