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Georgia and swine flu – 13 deaths and an extended winter break

What does the Lugar Laboratory have to do with it?

Thirteen people have died and several are in intensive care due to swine flu (H1N1) in Georgia.

The Ministry of Health says the rate of infection is not that of an epidemic, citing that there are 256 cases of flu per 100,000 people in the country – an epidemic is defined as 450-500 cases per the same pool.

Nevertheless, there is considerable distress in Georgia – news programmes regularly lead with the news item, and many are wearing medical masks on the street.

Flu and cold medicines have been bought up in advance, in addition to the expensive antiviral drug Tamiflu.

Christmas and New Year’s events are empty, as parents are afraid of taking their children to crowded places.

Since 8 January, five hospitals in Tbilisi have switched to round-the-clock operation. Entrance to hospitals and the presence of non-staff and non-patients is limited.

According to the director of the Centre for Disease Control, Amiran Gamkrelidze, around 300 cases of swine flu have been confirmed by via laboratory testing. Most of the victims who died from swine flu had preexisting chronic complications.

Winter holidays have been extended until the 21st in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus.

State calls on public to refrain from certain home treatments

At an official briefing on 8 January, Dr Amiran Gamkrelidze appealed to Georgians not to use ammonia for the treatment of swine flu and not to engage in other types of “medical” activities without doctor’s instructions.

This came after several sites started publishing information that ammonia could help stave off becoming infected with swine flu. Though such posts and news items were popular, numerous users have reported upset stomachs after drinking ammonia.

What does the Lugar Lab have to do with it?

Several websites wrote that the swine flu virus in Georgia has been intentionally spread by employees of the American Lugar Laboratory as a biological weapons test.

• Experts from 17 countries visit the Lugar centre in Tbilisi

Here are a few typical headlines:

“Swine Flu – only in Georgia, and all because of the Lugar Laboratory” – alia.ge

“What is happening now is an experiment of the Lugar Laboratory. We cannot ignore this just because the Kremlin doesn’t like the laboratory” – Euronews.ge

The US Lugar Research Centre is located near Tbilisi Airport. It was opened in 2011 in the village of Alekseevka. The centre is equipped in accordance with the highest modern standards, and scientific work with microbes of most classifications, except for extremely dangerous types such as anthrax and the plague, is conducted there.


For several years now, the Russian media has positioned the Lugar Lab as the main threat to Russia in the region, alleging that the US military is developing or producing biological weapons directly near the Russian border, which they intend to use against Russia.


The authorities of the United States and Georgia have repeatedly made statements emphasizing that the main mission of the Lugar Laboratory is to detect epidemics and work to bring them to an end.


What are the symptoms of swine flu?

The main symptoms of the H1N1 flu virus coincides with the symptoms of regular seasonal flu – headaches, a sharp rise in temperature, chills, cough, and less commonly a runny nose.

The flu often begins suddenly: sometimes diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain occur.

In most cases, H1N1 proceeds without complications – the patient recovers in about a week. However, in some cases, largely in people with preexisting conditions or a compromised immune system, it can be more severe.

The last time there was a large swine flu epidemic was in March and April 2009, when the swine flu killed about 20,000 people globally.

The following hospitals will be working round-the-clock in Tbilisi:

  • Medkapital – Gldani (18 Vekua Street);
  • Medkapital – Saburtalo (19 Gamrekeli Street);
  • National Training Centre for Family Medicine (15 Tsinamdzgvrishvili Street);
  • Medsi (21 Vera, 18 Kiacheli Street);
  • Medkapital – Samgori (Moscow Avenue, 4th Kvartal).

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