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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ministry Urges Swine Flu Precautions

MTA man wearing a mask in the metro Thursday. Officials say people with flu symptoms should seek immediate help.

Federal health officials were preparing for the worst Thursday after a fifth Russian died of swine flu, ordering medical facilities to get ready for an influx of patients and warning individuals on how to protect themselves.

The number of “laboratory-confirmed” cases of the A/H1N1 influenza virus, better known as swine flu, has reached 1,896, Veronika Skvortsova, a deputy health and social development minister, said at a meeting with regional health officials Thursday.

City Hall’s health department told RIA-Novosti that as of Wednesday, 525 cases had been confirmed in Moscow.

Russia is currently experiencing the “height of the pandemic,” Skvortsova later said on Vesti-24 state television. “Two weeks ago, our daily increase in cases was 20 to 25, but now we’re getting 45 to 60 new patients per day.”

A senior researcher at the St. Petersburg-based Flu Research Institute, Igor Nikonorov, was more cautious, saying it was still unclear how the virus would spread in Russia.

“It’s hard to say yet,” Nikonorov told The Moscow Times by phone.

Muscovites have begun wearing medical masks in the metro, following a recommendation earlier this week from Gennady Onishchenko, the country’s chief epidemiologist. He has given regular briefings on swine flu’s spread since Russia’s first confirmed case in May.

A number of Moscow’s drugstores have registered a rise in demand for medical masks and anti-flu medicine, Interfax reported Wednesday.

Meanwhile, almost 30 percent of Russians believe that swine flu was invented by big pharmaceutical companies to increase sales of their antiviral drugs, according to a survey conducted by earlier this week. The survey of 1,800 subscribers across Russia had a margin of error of 0.5 percentage points, the recruitment web site said.

In apparent recognition of the skepticism, federal authorities have been stressing prevention measures and warning that initial symptoms might be hard to distinguish from regular colds or influenza. The most recent victim, a 39-year-old Krasnoyarsk woman, only sought hospitalization Wednesday, the fifth day of her illness, a ministry source told RIA-Novosti.

People with swine flu symptoms, including diarrhea and a dry cough, must seek hospitalization on the first day that they fall ill, Skvortsova told regional health officials. The virus is most effectively treated by a combination of domestically produced drugs, such as Arbidol and Kagocel, she said.

The Health and Social Development Ministry has ordered regional officials to equip hospitals with extra beds, more antiviral medicine and extra automatic lung ventilation machines, Skvortsova said.

The ministry will start vaccination against swine flu on Nov. 9 for some workers, including in the communal and transportation services, the ministry source told RIA-Novosti. Starting Nov. 23, vaccination will be provided to medical workers, teachers and young people older than 18 years, the source said.

More than 417,800 swine flu cases have been registered across the globe, and more than 5,450 people have died from it, according to the World Health Organization.

Repeated calls to the Health and Social Development Ministry, City Hall’s health department and the Federal Consumer Protection Service went unanswered.