Via Syria Deeply, a report from Rozana Radio: Swine and Bird Flu on the Rise Across Syria. Presumably "swine flu" is H1N1 and "bird flu" is H5N1. Excerpt:
Deaths related to swine and bird flu are beginning to emerge across Syria. While the government has remained tight-lipped about the scale of the issue, state-controlled media outlets are finally starting to release figures for cases across the country.
Wael recovered from swine flu last week after being treated at the al-Bassel Hospital in Tartus. “I was very close to death,” he said. “If I had not made it to the hospital in time and received the right treatment, I would be dead by now,” he added. Because of the rising number of swine flu cases, according to Wael, nobody is allowed into the al-Bassel Hospital unless they are wearing a face mask.
The disease has reached the nearby province of Latakia as well; the first death due to swine flu occurred in a 26-year-old doctor named Tony Saba who worked at the Tishreen Military Hospital in Latakia. Saba’s friends have questioned medical and media reports claiming the swine flu virus causes deaths only in old people, children and those with compromised immune systems. They also confirmed that Saba did not have any chronic diseases or underlying immunodeficiency.
Government Cover-Up as Disease Spreads
Abu Jafar, who owned a dairy shop in Dahiyat Tishreen in Latakia, died last week at the National Hospital in the city.
The doctor who was overseeing his case said that the primary cause of Abu Jafar’s death was "viral pneumonia,” which is considered the most serious complication of swine flu. The hospital administration, however, tested all of his family members for the virus, and asked them not to publish the cause of their son’s death.
Despite the secrecy surrounding the number of cases, anonymous medical sources have confirmed that swine flu led to the death of at least one person in the city of Muhardeh in the Hama Governorate, and that there have been some 20 other critical cases throughout the city.
What makes the situation even more serious is the possible spread of bird flu in the city of Qamishli in northeastern Syria. Many residents are scared, particularly after one person at the National Hospital died after displaying symptoms very similar to bird flu, coupled with the news that many birds in South Qamishli’s bird farms have recently died.
Rozana’s correspondent in Qamishli spoke with Akhteen Asaad, a doctor in the city’s local hospital, who said that six people had died in the hospital, though he refused to specify whether the cause of death was bird flu or pneumonia. According to the same doctor, up until this point, the hospital administration has not sent any samples to Damascus for laboratory testing and disease identification.
Bird flu has reached Tal Abyad in northern Syria as well. Many sources said there have been 15 cases in the city, and Rozana's correspondent on the Turkish border, Ayman Bakkour, confirmed that two Syrians had died from swine flu in the Turkish city of Urfa.
“The symptoms of swine flu are the same as those of the common flu, except that they are much more intense. They start with a high fever, from 39 to 40 degrees Celsius [102 to 104 Fahrenheit], accompanied by fatigue, body aches, cough, lack of appetite and nausea," said Fatima, a laboratory physician working in Syria. "The symptoms soon intensify, causing difficulty in breathing, confusion and, in some cases, pneumonia and severe heart and respiratory failure.”
Fatima said she was shocked that the Syrian government's Health Directorates are still forcing state secrecy on the issue, “even though laboratory tests have confirmed five cases in the Assad Hospital, and six cases in the National Hospital in Latakia, in addition to other cases in private hospitals.”
The State Plays Down the Numbers
The Syrian government's Ministry of Health and its directorates do not admit to the growing danger of swine flu, insisting that cases in Syria do not exceed normal numbers. However, last Monday, the state-owned Tishreen newspaper published an article about the spread of swine flu in Syria.