Photo: AFP
2 more swine flu deaths hit Middle East
Latest deaths in Lebanon, Qatar bring toll across region to eight; Saudi Arabia worst hit country in Arab world

Two more people in the Middle East died from swine flu, authorities reported Saturday, as the deadly virus continues its spread across on the region.


The latest deaths bring the toll across the region to eight, with half of the deaths being in Saudi Arabia.


Lebanon's Health Ministry reported Saturday that a man suffering from advanced lymph gland cancer, which likely weakened his immune system, succumbed to swine flu.


Local media reported that he actually died Thursday and subsequent tests revealed swine flu was the cause.


Lebanon has reported 162 cases of swine flu, many of them in expatriates coming to spend the summer vacation in the country.


The tiny Gulf island emirate of Qatar also reported is first swine flu death when an obese 36-year-old died after being admitted to the hospital with acute pneumonia, according to a report in the state news agency.


The man had just traveled from Dubai where he had visited two other hospitals.


Qatar has reported 43 other cases of the swine flu, but the rest of them have been successfully treated.


The worst hit country in the Arab world has been Saudi Arabia, where 595 people have tested positive for the H1N1 virus and four people have died.


Saudi Health Minister Abdullah al-Rabia said preparations continue for the annual hajj pilgrimage when 3 million Muslims from around the world will descend on the holy city of Mecca in November and the kingdom has already pre-ordered extra doses of any future vaccine.


"We have reserved 4 million doses," al-Rabia said at a press conference. "It is not easy to get the vaccine, there is international competition. But this big portion was granted (to the kingdom) because of the importance of the hajj and umra seasons," he said, also referring to the smaller out-of-season pilgrimages.


A vaccination is expected some time in the autumn.


Al-Rabia also said that Saudi Arabia has sent samples from those who've died to the US and Europe to be tested in case there has been a mutation in the virus strain. 


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