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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Leading Doctor Urges Calm on Swine Flu

Russia's top respiratory doctor called for calm on Monday as health officials began screening all air passengers arriving from the Americas for symptoms of swine flu, which has killed at least 80 people in Mexico and spread as far as New Zealand.

"There are no reasons to panic at all. There's no epidemic, only an outbreak of the disease," said Alexander Chuchalin, head of the Pulmonology Research Institute, Interfax reported.

Chuchalin said pharmacies are stocked with medicines that effectively combat swine flu, particularly Oseltamivir, registered in Russia as Tamiflu, and Inhavirin, a new drug released by Russian researchers late last year.

"Unlike previously developed medicines, the Russian-made drug does not block the cells but destroys the virus' genome," Chuchalin said.

No cases of swine flu have been reported in Russia, said Gennady Onishchenko, head of the Federal Consumer Protection Service.

The Health and Social Development Ministry on Monday assigned medical teams to board planes arriving from North and South America and conduct visual examinations of all passengers and crew, Onishchenko said. "Thank God, there are no direct flights from Mexico," Onishchenko said, adding that private flights are also being screened.

Onishchenko had said Sunday that thermal sensors would be deployed to test passengers' temperatures.

The cabins of aircraft landing at Sheremetyevo Airport are disinfected upon arrival, and unused meals are destroyed, said Anna Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the airport. Domodedovo Airport is undertaking similar measures, said spokeswoman Irina Gorbunova.

Aircrews are under orders to report any visual signs of flu-like symptoms in passengers to airport officials, Aeroflot spokeswoman Irina Dannenberg said.

Swine flu can be contracted by eating or handling raw meat, said Alexei Alexeyenko, a spokesman for the Agriculture Ministry's food safety watchdog.

President Dmitry Medvedev ordered regional governors on Monday to take steps to prevent swine flu, the Kremlin said.

(MT, Bloomberg)