Swine flu now a pandemic

Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos yesterday announced that the country had entered «a swine flu pandemic» as the number of people infected with the H1N1 virus in Greece rose above 200. «There is now a need for cool-headedness, prudence and no panic,» Avramopoulos told a press conference, noting however that a third of the population could become infected with the virus, according to world flu statistics. Greece’s pandemic phase is expected to last between 12 and 15 months, Avramopoulos added. He said authorities had decided against closing down schools and public services as this had not proven effective in countries such as Mexico, where swine flu has run rampant. Of the 201 cases of swine flu diagnosed in Greece, 78 percent are Greeks who have returned from abroad, chiefly from the USA and Britain. As regards vaccines, the minister said they will be available as of October. Priority will be given to workers in the health sector, poultry farmers, children, the elderly and those with serious illnesses.