Russia, WHO at odds over first H1N1 flu death

MOSCOW Thu Sep 24, 2009 4:39am EDT

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - The World Health Organization has reported Russia's first known death from the H1N1 swine flu virus but Russia said Thursday the report was based on unofficial information.

Russian officials earlier this week rejected comments by the head of Moscow's Virology Institute, Dmitry Lvov, who said a Russian woman had died from H1N1 after returning from Bulgaria, in what would be the country's first known death from the virus.

The WHO Wednesday listed Russia on its www.who.int Website as among 15 European countries that have registered deaths from the virus.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti Thursday quoted a Health Ministry official as saying they were in contact with the WHO to "clarify the situation."

"In this case the WHO has drawn conclusions purely on the basis of information distributed in the public sphere," the unnamed official said.

Russian officials said the 46-year-old woman in question had tested positive for H1N1 but that she had been suffering from kidney disease and died from pneumonia.

Authorities say they have registered 381 cases of H1N1, but Lvov told Russian television the actual figure could be in the tens of thousands, raising concern over the government's readiness to address the pandemic.

The WHO office in Moscow said the official in charge of covering H1N1 was not available for comment. It was not immediately possible to confirm whether the WHO and the Russian authorities were referring to the same case.

(Reporting by Matt Robinson; editing by Michael Roddy)

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