Two Swine Flu Related Deaths in Poland

Two swine flu related deaths have occurred in Poland over the past four days. However, in both cases it is not certain that the A/H1N1 virus was directly responsible for the deaths.

This morning, a 48-year-old man from Krakow died in a Łódź hospital. The man was being treated in a specialized lung illness hospital, but when his condition worsened, he was sent to a hospital in Łódź. Tests confirmed the presence of the A/H1N1 virus, but it has not yet been determined if the virus caused his death, since he was already suffering from lung illness.

The first swine flu related death occurred on Friday, when a 37-year-old man from the town of Puck died in a Gdańsk hospital. The man, a police officer who had been away from work for the past two years because of a sick liver, had a weakened immune system, doctors said.

As Gazeta Wyborcza reports, his ordeal began with a visit to his family doctor with a fever, coughing and breathing difficulties. The doctor recognized normal flu symptoms and sent him home with medications. Two days later he returned feeling worse and was prescribed an antibiotic. Three days after that he was sent to the hospital where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. He was then transferred to a hospital in Gdańsk, where doctors suspected the new flu virus and sent samples for testing. He also received tamiflu, an anti-virus medication, but died on Friday afternoon, and the test results confirmed the presence of the A/H1N1 virus.

Jerzy Karpiński, a Gdańsk doctor, told Gazeta Wyborcza that the patient was treated properly by the family doctor, and that because of his weakened immune system, it is not certain that he would have survived even the normal flu. Asked if the A/H1N1 virus caused his death, Karpiński said that the patient “was weighed down by additional sickness, which had a significant influence on his immunity”. He also said that the man had not spent any time abroad.

So far, 271 people have been diagnosed with the A/H1N1 virus in Poland. Meanwhile, the government has received criticism for not purchasing vaccines against the new virus. Minister of Health Ewa Kopacz continued repeating that the vaccine’s side effects are not certain, and that the companies producing the vaccines are transferring responsibility onto governments, who would be responsible for any negative effects.

On Friday, the Ombudsman for Citizen’s Rights, Janusz Kochanowski, threatened to sue Kopacz for failing to provide Poles with the vaccine and therefore causing an epidemiological threat. The vice minister of health, Jakub Szulc, responded that Kopacz would also be legally responsible if she did not check the quality, effectiveness, and safety of the vaccine first.

However, earlier today Kopacz told Polsat News that the government is negotiating with at least three companies producing the vaccines. She remained sceptical towards the vaccines, stating, “These companies are not confident in their product, don’t take responsibility for it, and are afraid to release it into the open market even though their registration [by the EU] gives such an opportunity”. She added that the vaccine “is to be bought by the government, and the government is to be responsible for everything that will happen after the vaccinations”. She also maintains that she would prefer the vaccines to be sold to pharmacies, something the companies are not doing, and that she would like for Poles to choose the appropriate vaccine after consulting with their doctor.

Earlier, Kopacz also pointed out that the proper dosage of the vaccine had not been determined. Indeed, European authorities had changed their opinion on the matter several times.

A committee addressing a flu pandemic earlier designated four million Poles as having priority over others to receive the vaccine. They include health workers, pregnant women with doctor’s permission, at risk children over six months old, transport workers, and the police.

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