Afghanistan Closes Schools Due to
Increasing H1N1 Cases
By Sean Maroney
08 November 2009
The Afghan government has closed the country's
schools and universities for most of November in
response to an increased number of H1N1
Since July, officials have diagnosed nearly 350 people
with the virus. There have been a total of 772
confirmed cases, and 10 people have died.
Afghan officials say most of the flu cases have
been in Kabul, Parwan and the provinces of Herat,
Kandahar, Ningrahar and Bamayan.
Afghanistan's Health Minister Dr. Sayed Mohammad
Amin Fatemi says only Afghans so far have died from
He says the basic reason for the deaths has been
because the victims went to treatment centers too
late. He says most of the foreigners with the virus
have been with the NATO forces, and they were able to
start their treatments early, which helped their
chances for survival.
The United Nations World Health Organization
representative for Afghanistan, Peter Graass, says
that despite the last eight years of medical
improvements in the country, there is still a lot more
work left to do.
"Somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of all Afghans
have access within two hours of walking or traveling
to basic health services, so that means that under the
best of circumstances we have a very sizable - still
very sizable - proportion of the population that is
basically missing out," he said.
He says the Afghan health services are reasonably
prepared to deal with the H1N1 outbreak. But he adds
that officials believe the actual number of cases is
much higher and are preparing for scenarios in which a
fourth of the country contracts the flu virus.
Graass says his organization is still waiting on
the first 11 million doses of the vaccination.
"Half a million [doses] will come to Afghanistan,
so almost 20 percent of the total will come to
Afghanistan, so that is good news for us," he said.
"And the [Afghan] government is working very hard with
its partners on the deployment plan."
The H1N1 virus has differed from normal, seasonal
influenza in that it has persisted during the summer
months and affected relatively healthy people under
the age of 65. The WHO says most people recover
Last week, the WHO announced that the H1N1 virus
has become the dominant flu strain in the world.
According to numbers available in late October, there
have been more than 440,000 laboratory confirmed cases
of H1N1 influenza and more than 5,700 deaths reported
to the U.N. agency.