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Swine flu virus claims more lives in Myanmar

SWINE FLU VIRUS CLAIMS MORE LIVES IN MYANMAR

Two more people have died of H1N1 virus in Myanmar, health authorities said Monday, bringing the total number of deaths in the recent swine flu outbreak to 12.

A total of 287 people have been hospitalized with severe acute respiratory infection in various regions of the country since July 21, according to the Health Department under the Ministry of Health and Sports.

"Of them, 12 patients died and 62 were confirmed to have been infected with H1N1 virus as of Monday," the department said in a press release.

The latest victims died Monday in Mandalay, the country's second largest city, according to a local media report.

The Health Ministry submitted a report to WHO last Wednesday on the swine flu situation, requesting assistance to contain the virus and the provision of vaccines, medicines and detection equipment among others.

Stores have reportedly sold out of surgical masks in Myanmar's commercial capital of Yangon, the worst affected area, although authorities have described the outbreak as a regular seasonal occurrence, calling for public calm.

Regional government on Sunday postponed an eight-day spirit festival, scheduled to take place from July 31 to Aug. 7 in a village called Taung Pyone outside Mandalay to prevent the spread of virus.

The festival honoring the 37 nature spirits worshipped in conjunction with Buddhist traditions has seen tens of thousands flock to the festival annually for about a century, some of them homosexual or transgender.

Though same-sex relations are criminalized under the colonial-era penal code in Myanmar, homosexuals and transgender people are welcomed during the festival.

In addition to the swine flu outbreak, Myanmar has recently confirmed a H5N1 virus outbreak, commonly known as bird flu, in Yangon and in the southernmost region of Tanintharyi.

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