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Ambulance driver latest H1N1 victim

By Jacqueline Theodoulou
A CYPRIOT ambulance driver was yesterday listed as Cyprus' sixth case of the H1N1 virus - and the first case of human-to-human transmission within the island

Reports over the source of the outbreak were conflicting, with some media outlets saying the man had driven a 22-year-old British tourist carrying the virus to hospital while the head of the Health Ministry's H1N1 virus task force, Dr Chrystalla Hadjianastasiou, said there was no clear indication of how the 37-year-old Cypriot contracted the virus.

The driver maintains he had taken all relevant safety precautions when coming into contact with the infected Briton, who had arrived on the island on June 18.

"Until today, 21 people in total have been tested for the virus, of whom six have been diagnosed with carrying the H1N1 virus," said Hadjianastasiou.

Speaking upon his return from a trip to China, Health Minister Christos Patsalides said the ministry's services were dealing with the issue effectively.

He added that all six patients were doing well health-wise, stressing that the symptoms of the most recent case were mild.

The minister confirmed that hospital staff and family members that had come into contact with the 37-year-old had also been examined and were given the necessary precautionary treatment.

Regarding the new case, Patsalides said strict orders had been given to hospital staff for maintaining safety measures.

"A circular has been sent to all hospitals to take the necessary protection measures on the part of the staff," said the minister.

He also announced that Famagusta General Hospital had also designated a special area equipped to deal with H1N1 cases. There is already a special unit at Limassol hospital.

The fact that the newest cases have coincided with peak season for tourism - and in tourist districts - has prompted the Health Ministry to call for a meeting today with all relevant bodies, to find ways to better co-ordinate and deal with the situation more effectively.

Apart from the 22-year-old tourist, three more British tourists, all aged 18, were recently confirmed as carrying the virus, which was recently declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The first recorded case was a 39-year-old Moldovan woman who was confirmed to have the flu-like virus in May after returning from a trip to New York. She has since been released from quarantine after receiving treatment.

So far, there are 52,000 confirmed cases of the virus globally, resulting in 230 deaths.

Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2009

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