A DEADLY plague could sweep across Europe, doctors fear, after an outbreak of a virus in Ukraine plunged the country and its neighbours into a state of panic. A cocktail of three flu viruses are reported to have mutated into a single pneumonic plague, which it is believed may be far more dangerous than swine flu. The death toll has reached 189 and more than 1 million people have been infected, most of them in the nine regions of Western Ukraine. President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko has called in the World Health Organisation and a team of nine specialists are carrying out tests in Kiev and Lviv to identify the virus. Samples have been sent to London for analysis.
Ukraine is in the midst of what some might call swine-flu hysteria. The country is in virtual lockdown mode, with the government closing schools, universities and movie theaters and banning all public gatherings until the end of November. Pharmacies have run out of protective masks; those who missed the rush are improvising with scarves or homemade facsimiles. And rumors are running rampant, much as they did during Soviet times when the authorities tried to cover up disasters like the Chernobyl nuclear-plant meltdown.