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Palestinian Death Toll From Outbreak of Swine Flu Rises to 21

The death toll from an outbreak of the H1N1 virus in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has risen to 21, all the victims children or elderly people.

Since the beginning of winter, 19 people have died in the West Bank and two in Gaza, Dr. Asad Rimlawi, director of public health at the Palestinian Ministry of Health in the West Bank, said in a telephone interview.

A total of 640 people have been infected by the virus, also known as Swine Flu, Rimlawi said. Authorities are promoting the use of vaccinations and general community awareness, he added.

Gregory Hartl, spokesman for the World Health Organization, said that outbreaks of flu during colder months are not unusual.

“It’s the northern hemisphere, it is winter so there will be flu,” he said in a telephone interview. “Which specific virus causes the most illness varies from year to year, but certainly H1N1 is now a seasonal influenza virus and we expect it to cause illness.”

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