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School closed because of Swine Flu gets Ministers arguing

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, November 10
Classes were suspended at Tbilisi Public School number 34 on November 9 after one of its pupils was infected with the H1N1 virus. The school administration took this decision voluntarily. Representatives of the National Centre of Disease Control and Public Health stated that the infected child is being treated and feels fine. It is believed that the child was infected as a result of contact with a person who had returned from Great Britain.

Director of the school Ketevan Natroshvili stated that she was informed of the child’s condition only on Sunday but then decided to undertake corresponding measures to prevent the virus spreading at the school. “Everyone knows that H1N1 is a very dangerous virus. I had no information about the child’s condition until Sunday, but as soon as I had I decided to close the school for one day for disinfection. I made this decision on my own initiative,” Natroshvili said.

Paata Imnadze, head of the National Centre of Disease Control and Public Health, stated that the H1N1 situation in Georgia is quite satisfactory and such dramatic decisions need not be made. “Our centre never hides the exact number of infected people. In the present situation there is no serious danger in the country, and if there is, we will inform the public about it and undertake special measures. The situation in our neighbouring countries is more difficult, a lot of people are infected and many have died as well. But at present the situation can be considered satisfactory in Georgia. The total number of infected people is 38, which is not a high number. I think that after a single occurrence a school should not have to close even for one day. Besides, there is a Public Health Service in Tbilisi and such decisions should be agreed with them. As for the child, his present condition is absolutely satisfactory and he feels fine already,” stated Imnadze.

Imnadze said that an increase in the number of infected people is expected from the second half of November. Swine flu has the same symptoms as ordinary flu to begin with, but if someone has some difficulties, like a high temperature, they should see a doctor immediately.

Nika Gvaramia, the Minister of Education, considered the school Director’s decision absolutely appropriate. “I consider that this step was absolutely right; each Director has the right to make such a decision if they think it is necessary for the pupils. It was a preventive measure,” stated the Minister. But the Ministry of Health considers that such decisions should be agreed with it. Minister Alexander Kvitashvili suggested that the situation was not serious enough to cause the closure of the school. “Such decisions should necessarily be agreed with the Ministry of Health. In this specific case the child was not inflected at the school and did not have contact with the other schoolchildren for a week,” Kvitashvili said.