YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Health officials in Armenia on Thursday sought to assure the public that a rapidly growing flu disease that has reportedly affected thousands of Armenia’s has not developed into a full-scale epidemic.
"There is no epidemic. It’s just a spread of disease," said Armen Atabekian–the first deputy minister of health.
The assurances came amid reports that an unusually large number of Armenia’s residents have been suffering from a hitherto unknown type of flu which apart from the usual muscle ache and high temperature causes serious respiratory difficulties.
Atabekian said more than 10,000 people infected with the disease have applied to doctors for medical aid since January 1. He said the health ministry has decided that ambulance service for flu-infected patients will be free of charge in the coming two weeks.
But he claimed the flu has not affected 30 percent of the population–the formal threshold for a disease to be officially considered an epidemic.
"The situation is stabilizing," Armenia’s chief sanitary inspector–Vladimir Davidiants–told a joint news conference of the health officials. Among those hit by the flu outbreak is President Robert Kocharian.
Doctors recommend people not to kiss or hug when meeting their friends or relatives.