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Finland Sees First Signs of Swine Flu Epidemic

The first epidemic wave of swine flu is hitting Finland. The National Institute for Health and Welfare says the H1N1 outbreaks in northern Finland are reaching epidemic proportions.

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Last week the Sodankylä garrison saw an outbreak of H1N1 cases, and this week the Kainuu brigade reported conscripts falling ill with flu-like symptoms. Pockets of swine flu outbreaks have also been reported in the central Finnish towns of Kiuruvesi and Suonenjoki.

“This means Finland is entering into a period of accelerated outbreaks, although there is currently no clear epidemic," says Professor Petri Ruutu of the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The agency forecasts that it will be five to six weeks before the epidemic peaks. An epidemic phase of the H1N1 virus lasts between two to four weeks, according to the THL.

Ruutu says it's unlikely Finland will see more than one H1N1 epidemic wave; however, he says it's possible that two seasonal influenza waves will come on the heels of the H1N1 epidemic.

Finland received its first shipments of H1N1 vaccines this week. Authorities have begun distributing the vaccines to healthcare centres and hospital districts.

Healthcare personnel and expectant women will be the first to receive a vaccine for protection against the H1N1 swine flu virus.

Lähteet: YLE