Swine flu outbreak nears Tehran as Iran death toll tops 40

A swine flu outbreak which began in 2009 went on to kill some 18,500 people in 214 countries before the World Health Organisation declared the pandemic over in August 2010 (AFP Photo/Sam Panthaky)

Tehran (AFP) - An outbreak of swine flu in Iran has claimed 42 lives since mid-November, including in a province neighbouring Tehran, Health Minister Hassan Hashemi said Thursday.

Hashemi, quoted by ISNA news agency, said 33 deaths from the H1N1 virus were recorded in Kerman and five in Sistan-Baluchistan, both provinces in southeastern Iran.

The other four deaths were in three northern provinces, including one in Karaj, near the capital, he said in an update recording nine new fatalities since Monday.

Hashemi has said the number of deaths from flu was similar to previous years, but that it was becoming harder to treat.

"This flu comes from beyond our borders, especially from Sistan-Baluchistan" near Pakistan, the minister said Monday. "But every year it becomes wilder and more resistant" to treatment.

A major H1N1 outbreak sparked a World Health Organization pandemic alert in June 2009, after the virus emerged from Mexico and the United States.

The outbreak killed some 18,500 people in 214 countries.

The alert was lifted in August 2010.

The first instance of swine flue in Iran was reported in June 2009 when a 16-year-old Iranian boy entered the country with his family on a flight from the United States.