“We have no plan to declare an emergency over the H1N1 influenza outbreak,” said Dr.Than Htun Aung, the deputy director of the Department of Infectious Diseases, speaking at a press conference in Rangoon on Sunday afternoon.
On the same day, the Ministry of Health and Sports, which oversees his department, announced that another four persons had succumbed to the virus, bringing the total number of deaths to ten in little over a week. The ministry said that, to date, 51 persons in Burma had been infected with H1N1, also known as swine flu.
“Whether or not we declare this [H1N1] influenza outbreak an emergency depends on its transmission rate,” said Dr. Than Htun Aung. “It cannot be declared an emergency just because it has spread across only one country. H1N1 has been recorded in higher numbers in all other countries in the region, except for Thailand, Sri Lanka and Bhutan.”
Dr. Thar Htun Kyaw, the director of Rangoon Division’s Public Health Department, also addressed reporters at the press conference yesterday.
“Apart from a doctor in North Okkalapa Hospital [in Yangon], no health workers have contracted H1N1,” he said. “What I want to emphasise is that if those health workers who are working closely with infected patients are showing no signs of influenza, then the public is safe.”
Meanwhile, in Mandalay, the annual Taung Pyone festival has been called off due to fears of spreading the virus.
Mandalay regional government announced that the popular Nat festival would be suspended until the swine flu outbreak was under control. It was due to begin today and continue until 7 August. Popular with tourists from around Burma and abroad, the event normally attracts around 100,000 visitors. The regional government issued a statement expressing concern for revellers, and noted that as H1N1 is an airborne disease, it could spread easily among such a large crowd.
“Not only Taung Pyone, but all festivals will be suspended until the H1N1 outbreak is under control,” said Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, the chief minister of Mandalay Division.