Sunday, November 15, 2009

the nytimes gets around to it....,


NYTimes | When patients began arriving in Vyacheslav Bonder’s intensive care unit two weeks ago, their lungs so saturated with blood that they could barely gasp, the only thing he could compare it to was a field hospital in wartime. As soon as he hooked one patient up to a ventilator, a second and third would appear in the doorway.

By that time, hospitals were clearing wards to make room for a wave of pneumonia cases, and people were crowding into drugstores to buy whatever they could get their hands on. Rumors were circulating that the government had ordered the city aerially sprayed with chemicals, to cure Lviv (pronounced luh-VEEVE) of disease or, in a grimmer version, to exterminate its carriers.

The panic lifted almost as quickly as it had arrived, and the World Health Organization announced Friday that the swine flu illnesses and deaths so far in Ukraine — 265 fatalities nationwide, with 87 in the Lviv region — were statistically no worse than those in other countries. But what happened here has drawn rapt attention from experts bracing for the epidemic to hit Europe, and especially the fragile health care systems of countries of the former Soviet Union.

Early findings are that serious cases mounted because the sick avoided hospitalization until their illness was dangerously advanced, stockpiles of Tamiflu were locked in centralized locations and the supply of ventilators fell short, said David Mercer, of the World Health Organization’s European regional office.

“It’s not like this caught us by surprise; we’ve known for months that this was coming,” said Dr. Mercer, who heads the office’s communicable disease unit. “We’ve been working very hard on plans, but sometimes the battle plan doesn’t survive the first contact with the enemy. We’ve had to change a lot of things on the fly.”