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Russia denies first swine flu death
Russia's health authorities Monday vehemently denied that the country had recorded its first fatality from the A(H1N1) virus, contradicting a top doctor's claim that a woman had recently died of swine flu.
"Not a single case that had a fatal conclusion -- in other words, death -- has been recorded on the territory of the Russian Federation," said Deputy Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova, quoted by news agencies.
She said that the woman, a 46-year-old Russian doctor who recently returned from Bulgaria, had died of pneumonia aggravated by a heart condition and not swine flu.
Earlier Dmitry Lvov, head of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Virology, said that not only had Russia recorded its first swine flu death but that the number of cases could be in the tens of thousands.
"We immediately diagnosed (the woman with) swine flu," Lvov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
"We could not take any measures because she died the very next day."
Lvov also warned that the total count of people infected with the virus could be much higher than the 381 cases that Russian health authorities had acknowledged so far.
"By my count, it can be as high as the tens of thousands. I cannot prove it yet, but in a few weeks I will be able to and will say so," Lvov said.
"The time when we could say that our border was secure is past. For the flu virus it is a sieve," he added.
The Russian authorities have been pointing out that the country remains relatively unaffected by the virus and have urged citizens to take strict precautions when travelling abroad.
The World Health Organisation announced on Friday that the global flu death toll has reached 3,486, up 281 from a week ago.
Experts have previously predicted that about one third of the world's population of more than 6.5 billion people could be affected by the A(H1N1) virus, but they stress that so far most victims are suffering only mild symptoms.