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Lebanon hit by swine flu deaths over winter

There have been four confirmed H1N1 deaths this winter season [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 February, 2016

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Lebanon's health ministry confirms four H1N1 deaths this winter season, but urges the country not to worry about the virus saying there is no epidemic in sight.

Swine flu has killed four people in Lebanon since the beginning of the winter season in November last year.

Walid Ammar, the general director of Lebanon's health ministry, confirmed the four H1N1 deaths.

"The cases that needed emergency care this winter season are up 20 percent, compared to last winter, partly due to a more efficient referral system between the hospitals and the health ministry," he said.

Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said the four fatal cases were a child aged three, a 31-year-old woman, a 36-year-old pregnant woman, and a 58-year-old man.

He also said reported cases had increased by 20 percent but the number of deaths was comparable with the previous winter season, in which five people died of H1N1.

"The solution would be to decrease kissing, unless extremely necessary," Abu Faour said jokingly to journalists.

His comments sparked a new hashtag on Twitter - #KissForFaour - that saw Lebanese users post pictures themselves kissing their partners, children, or even pets.

Faour also denied any links between Lebanon's garbage crisis and the rise of swine flu.

"Scientifically speaking, there is no direct or indirect link between the garbage and swine flu," Faour said during a press conference.

The garbage crisis erupted last summer when the country's main landfill in Naameh was closed.

The closure of the landfill caused rubbish to pile up on Beirut's roadsides, in parking lots and river beds.

The You Stink campaign then emerged as a movement to demand a solution to trash collection, later broadening its target to the entire political class, accusing it of being corrupt and inept.

A regional outbreak of swine flu in 2009 sparked warnings from governments and the World Health Organisation.

By August 2010, when the WHO lifted its warning, the virus had killed 18,500 people in 214 countries.

However, Faour has urged the country not to worry about the virus, saying there is no epidemic in sight.

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