CAIRO – Sixteen people in Egypt have died from the H1N1 virus – commonly known as swine flu – since the start of the winter, the country's Ministry of Health said Monday.
The ministry's spokesman, Ahmed Kamel, was quoted by the daily newspaper Al Masry Al Youm as saying that in all, 172 people have been diagnosed with the virus, including those who died. Recent weeks have seen criticism from doctors and patients, who accused the ministry of underplaying the threat of the virus.
An official of the Doctors' Syndicate, a major medical organization, told Egyt's CBC television that the ministry had been warned weeks ago about the danger of the virus. However, the Health Ministry insisted that the rates of contracting the virus were less than the global average at this time of year.
Kamel, the ministry spokesman, said public hospitals across the country were being provided with the drug Tamiflu to help fight the virus. He also denied reports that doctors were among the dead, saying that medical personnel had been vaccinated.
Health Minister Maha Rabat earlier said that the spread of H1N1 was being tracked by the ministry. She said it was only one of many seasonal influenza viruses and added that fatalities were mainly attributable to people not seeking help until they were too sick to be treated effectively.