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Deaths from flu double in a week in Greece

ATHENS, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from the flu more than doubled in a week across Greece reaching 43 fatalities this winter, among them two children.

The patients had been infected with various types of the influenza virus -- in particularly the H1N1 strand -- and died of complications, according to the latest data of the Greek Center for Control and Prevention of Diseases. A further 60 patients are currently hospitalized.

A week ago, the centre had recorded 18 deaths and experts recommended vaccination of people belonging to the most vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and people suffering from chronic illnesses.

The majority of the flu victims had not been inoculated, according to data. Only a third of Greeks belonging to high-risk groups has been immunized this year, according to estimates.

Scientists attributed the alarming upsurge of the influenza victims to the low vaccination rates and this year's insufficient campaigns to raise public awareness due to lack of funds.

"The investment of funds into public awareness campaigns and prevention is fundamental to safeguard public health," centre head Tzeni Kourea Kremastinou said on Tuesday, as Greek doctors working in state hospitals protested against cost-cutting reforms in the sector.

Under a new health law which goes into effect this week. health clinics run by the national healthcare organization EOPYY will shut down for a month for an overhaul of primary healthcare services.

Patients will be treated at other state hospitals, while some 8,500 doctors and nurses will be put in a mobility scheme, leading to transfers to other posts or gradual dismissals.

Doctors protesting since autumn claim that the changes will further deteriorate the quality of services offered to people.

The government, which is promoting reform as demanded by bailout deals with international lenders, argues that painful reform is the only way to resolve chronic debt problems.

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