Ulaanbaatar/Beijing/Geneva, 24 January 2019 – An outbreak of Influenza A (H1N1) in Mongolia has been called a “kids’ crisis” by the Mongolian Red Cross Society, with children under five accounting for more than two-thirds of cases reported up to 18 January.
Health services are increasingly stretched. According to the Ministry of Health, an average of 139 influenza patients are hospitalized every day. Of these, almost 90 per cent are infants and children under the age of five. Hospitals in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, usually have the capacity to admit 977 children but are struggling to find beds for more than 1,500 children currently hospitalized in the city. As of 24 January, four children have unfortunately died of influenza.
“This influenza outbreak, along with extreme cold, air pollution, poverty and the risk of pneumonia, are combining to pose deadly risks, especially for young children,” said Bolormaa Nordov, Secretary General of the Mongolian Red Cross. “This is absolutely a ‘kids’ crisis’.”
“The situation is alarming because the peak of the influenza season is still two months away. We are also concerned that the coming Lunar New Year (5 to 7 February) will see many people on the move across the country, providing an opportunity for the outbreak to spread even further,” said Bolormaa Nordov.
The proportion of people affected so far – 73 cases in every 10,000 people – is well above the average of the two previous flu seasons. Across the country, nine per cent of people visiting healthcare providers have influenza. However, in some areas this figure rises to 23 per cent, triggering some provinces and districts to prepare for local quarantines. If the national figure climbs above 15 per cent then a local and national quarantine could be ordered, according to the Ministry of Health’s contingency plan.
The Mongolian Red Cross is working with the government to respond to this unfolding emergency. The Red Cross has provided portable beds to one overwhelmed hospital in Ulaanbaatar and is readying to deploy trained volunteers and staff to high risk areas. The Red Cross is also running a country-wide social media campaign designed to provide people with information they can use to avoid getting sick and to protect their families.