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  Sunday, September 22, 2019
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Up to a third of Russia's population could be affected by a bird-flu pandemic
Up to a third of Russia's population could be affected by a bird-flu pandemic, the country's chief medical officer said Wednesday. "Calculations we have made using World Health Organization's methods tell us that 45-50 million people could contract the disease during the first wave," Gennady Onishchenko told a board session of Russia's Health and Social Development Ministry. Onishchenko said that as many as 6 million Russians could contract H5N1 bird flu if a pandemic hit Russia, and about a million of those would need hospital treatment. "We may need some 170,000 doctors to cope," he said. Onishchenko said a major problem to be addressed in the face of a bird flu pandemic would be short supply of respiratory equipment in the country's clinics. He expressed concern over outbreaks in Russia's southern neighbors, particularly Azerbaijan, which has so far reported seven confirmed human cases, including five fatalities, and criticized regional authorities in Russia for not doing enough to contain the spread of the disease. Pre-clinical trials of a bird flu vaccine engineered using genes from the Vietnam strain are underway in the central region of Bashkortostan, Onishchenko said. Earlier Wednesday, Health Minister Mikhail Zurabov said clinical trials of three other vaccines based on the H5N1 strain could be completed within three months. "Three vaccine types currently under trial have already passed the pre-clinical stage and the whole process could be completed in two-three months' time," Zurabov told reporters. Human cases of bird flu have been registered in 51 countries across the world since the H5N1 strain appeared in Southeast Asia in 2003. Of 190 people diagnosed with the virus, 107 have died. Russia was hit by its first H5N1 outbreak last summer. Hundreds of thousands of poultry in the country's eastern and southern provinces have been killed by the virus since then, but humans have remained unaffected.
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