Swine flu rumours sweep Burma

July 1, 2009 (DVB), The confirmation last week of Burma's first swine flu case has sparked rumours that the disease is widespread, with patients suffering from the virus being mixed with HIV/AIDS patients at a Rangoon hospital.

Burma has so far only confirmed one case of swine flu, that of a 13-year-old girl who was taken to hospital on 26 June shortly after returning from Singapore.

The government health ministry's Infectious Disease Control Department said that her condition was stable.

"She is doing better now as her fever has come down," said Dr Soe Lwin Nyein.

"We will keep her at the hospital for seven days as a disease control procedure and then will let her go."

Since her case came to light, Burma has seen a dramatic hike in the price of medical masks.

"Even then, there is no enough supply. It is impossible for all family members to get them," said a Rangoon resident.

The case has a triggered fears throughout Burma that the disease, which the World Health Organisation earlier this month moved to a level 6 pandemic, will spread.

Dr Soe Lwin Nyein was forced to deny that suspected H1N1 patients were being mixed with HIV/AIDS patients in Rangoon's Weibagi hospital.

"Only rumours – we do not have new patients [and] if we do, we will announce it in newspapers and on television," he said, adding that hospitals have specialized isolation wards for treating the disease.

One of the reasons for the panic is that millions of Rangoon residents use cramped public transport every day, meaning the virus could spread easily, said the Rangoon resident.

"There are at least 60 or 70 people in a bus and flu can spread in the air. It is very difficult to prevent or stop it," he said.

Reporting by Ahunt Phone Myat

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