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Yekaterinburg first Russian million-city to close schools amid flu outbreak

The schools will switch to distant learning until the epidemic subsides

YEKATERINBURG, January 27. /TASS/. Yekaterinburg in the Urals has become Russia’s first million-city to shut down all schools for at least ten days in an effort to contain the flu epidemic, the head of the local education department said on Wednesday.

"This is a forced measure," Yekaterina Sibirtseva said. "The schools will switch to distant learning until the epidemic subsides."

According to the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights, over 34,300 people are infected with flu in the Sverdlovsk Region, including Yekaterinburg.

Schools have been partially closed in other Russian cities, including St. Petersburg, Chelyabinsk and Smolensk.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that swine flu virus, officially known as influenza virus A/H1N1, predominates in Russia and Europe.

Head of laboratory of biotechnology at the St. Petersburg-based Research Institute of Influenza Anna Sominina said on Tuesday that at least 50 Russian nationals had died of flu, adding that the high mortality rate in some Russian regions was linked with the mutation of swine flu.

According to the institute, the weekly epidemic threshold exceeds 48.8% across the country. Swine flu has been found in 96% of cases.

Swine flu is the popular name for flu caused by a relatively new strain of influenza virus A. It was responsible for the flu pandemic in 2009.

Swine flu is contagious, and it spreads in the same way as the seasonal flu. The most serious complication of the flu is pneumonia, leading to fatal cases.