Turkey starts vaccinations against killer swine flu

November 02, 2009, Monday/ 16:37:00
The Health Ministry is set to begin administering vaccines against H1N1 influenza, popularly known as swine flu, starting with health workers and pilgrims embarking on hajj.

The ministry announced that nearly 350,000 health personnel throughout Turkey would begin receiving shots today as no adverse effects were observed during tests of the country's supply of swine flu vaccine. The ministry has completed its preparations to begin vaccinating health workers, having delivered vaccines to the relevant health centers and arranged briefings for the groups receiving shots. The ministry is expected to provide photos taken during the vaccination of Health Ministry personnel, including Health Minister Recep Akdağ, to the press.

The first shipment of 500,000 doses of swine flu vaccine arrived in Turkey last week. Samples of the vaccine were tested at the Refik Saydam Public Health Center, Turkey's national public health research laboratory, and then distributed to health institutions across the country. The center announced that no problems were detected with random samples of the vaccine they had evaluated.

The Health Ministry prepared a scheme to identify high-risk groups and take precautionary measures against the epidemic. The Health Ministry classified the morbidly obese, pregnant women, those below the age of 2, those with chronic heart and lung diseases and those above the age of 65 as high-risk groups.

According to the ministry, people wish at least one symptom of swine flu, such as a high fever, sore throat, headache, nasal flow, coughing, difficulty breathing, vomiting and diarrhea will be treated as “possible cases.” If those included in groups mentioned above have these symptoms, they will be designated as part of the “high-risk group for fatal disease.”

Turkey reported its first case of swine flu on May 15. The number of cases had increased slowly in the country until recently, when figures almost doubled in a week. Following an outbreak at an Ankara school two weeks ago, the school was closed for a week. The Health Ministry announced on Oct. 20 that 582 people had been diagnosed with swine flu in the country since May. Turkey's first swine flu death occurred on Oct. 24 in Ankara. A swine flu patient, Mustafa Güneş, died at Ankara's Atatürk Sanatorium, where he had been receiving treatment. The Health Ministry announced on Thursday that a 34-year-old woman, Beşire Bozkurt, who had been receiving treatment for H1N1 in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, had died. By the time of Bozkurt's death, the number of people diagnosed with the virus since May had risen to 1,411. Another statement from the ministry late on Thursday indicated that a 37-year-old woman -- who had died at a hospital in the Central Anatolian province of Konya last Monday -- had also died of swine flu, bringing the death toll from swine flu in Turkey to three.

Swine flu scare triples demand for pneumonia vaccine

According to data from the Health Ministry, the number of adults receiving vaccines against pneumonia, which is believed to lead to swine flu and seasonal flu deaths, has tripled this year. While 20,917 vaccines were sold in June, July and August 2008, the figure increased to 58,858 in the same period of 2009.

Professor Mehmet Ceyhan, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of Turkey, said pneumonia is the leading cause of swine flu deaths. Stating that Health Ministry efforts have played a major role in creating awareness about pneumonia vaccination, he called on those included in high-risk groups to receive swine flu shots as well.

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