ULAN BATOR/BEIJING-The World Health Organisation has shipped urgent supplies of the influenza drug Tamiflu to Mongolia, as the country's hospital system struggles to cope with a late but widespread outbreak of the H1N1 strain of flu.
Other Asian countries have begun vaccination programmes to help prevent the spread of H1N1, a new disease, but Mongolia has yet to receive its allotment of vaccines donated by wealthier nations and the spike in cases has hospitals struggling to cope.
The WHO sent over 45,000 doses of Tamiflu to Mongolia, which has had a rapid rise in reported cases of H1N1 since the first were detected in mid-October. The onset is tied to the start of winter, as Mongolians seal up their homes to keep out the cold.
Vaccine production has been slower than originally expected in the United States, delaying shipments to poorer countries.
"Already Mongolia's health system is quite strained, in terms of hospital capacity. The ministry is feeling the strain in terms of equipment, supplies and staff," said Dr Salik Govind, the officer in charge at the World Health Organisation in Mongolia.
"It's a difficult challenge because people live in rural areas and health capacity at smaller hospitals is not as good as in larger ones."
Mongolia has confirmed 859 cases of H1N1 and six deaths, with cases reported in its far-flung aimags, or provinces, as well as the capital Ulan Bator...