Ara Asoyan, the country’s chief epidemiologist, told RFE/RL that a 51-year-old Armenian man died on Friday shortly after being taken to Yerevan’s Nork hospital with grave flu-like symptoms.
Asoyan, who runs the hospital specializing in infectious disease, said the man suffered from a particular type of influenza that has yet to be ascertained. A biopsy test will show whether it was the H1N1 virus, he said, adding that the results will be known within three weeks.
“The diagnosis was complicated by the fact that he was brought to our hospital on the eighth or ninth day of the disease,” said Asoyan. “What could have been caused by the flu was already gone.”
According to the official, the dead man also had other serious illnesses. “We had a consequential situation: quite a serious change in the lungs and bronchi, problems with the heart muscle. In this situation I find it difficult to tell what happened,” he said.
The death occurred about two weeks after the authorities reported the first case of swine flu in Armenia. A total of 25 H1N1 cases have been registered since then. All but two of them have reportedly been already discharged from hospital.
Health officials have been at pains to play down the outbreak, saying that the Armenian medical services will manage to keep it under control. Asoyan urged the population on November 14 to stop buying up Tamiflu drugs and medical masks, dismissing widespread fears of the potentially deadly virus as an unjustified “psychosis.”
Asoyan acknowledged on Tuesday that the disease can be life-threatening, while insisting that the risks involved are grossly exaggerated by many people. “I can’t exclude death cases in our country,” he said.