Lisa Schnirring * Staff Writer

Nov 3, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – The World Health Organization (WHO) said its team arrived in the Ukraine last night and met with the country’s health ministry today to discuss a dramatic spike in flulike illnesses and deaths, particularly in the western part of the country.

The Ukrainian health ministry has recorded more than 250,000 flulike illnesses, of which 235 patients needed treatment in intensive care units, the WHO said in a statement today. As of yesterday, 70 deaths had been reported.

The high level of illnesses activity and severe cases, combined with reports of hemorrhagic pneumonia cases, have raised some speculation that the virus might be behaving differently in the Ukraine, but further testing is just getting under way.

Laboratory testing at labs in the Ukraine have confirmed the pandemic H1N1 virus in samples taken from patients in two regions, the WHO said, adding that because the pandemic virus has become dominant throughout the world, most of the Ukrainian respiratory illnesses are probably caused by the novel H1N1 strain.

Though the highest illness rates have been seen in the western part of the country, illness activity is increasing rapidly in Kiev, the WHO reported.

The WHO’s field investigation team will start in the Lviv region, where the number of cases of severe respiratory illness has been especially high. Virologists from the WHO have started working with Ukrainian scientists at the National Influenza Centre and the Central Sanitary and Epidemiological Station, both in Kiev.

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•  FL: 5th death in St. Lucie County confirmed  (Link)
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