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Greece Blames Virus for Deaths

April 29, 2002

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THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) _ A Greek laboratory said Monday that the disease blamed for killing three people is a common virus that ordinarily causes fever and other flu-like symptoms.

Workers at the microbiology lab at the Aristotelian University in this northern port city said it had identified the virus, which is considered responsible for causing an outbreak of myocarditis, or heart inflammation.

Tests showed the myocarditis was caused by the B strain of the Coxsackie virus, said lab director Dr. Antonis Antoniadis.

The virus caused a panic in Greece, and last week the government closed all day-care centers and schools in the country. The ban was lifted Friday after a sharp decline in new cases.

Since officials began keeping count on April 18, 46 people have exhibited symptoms of myocarditis.

Coxsackie is a common virus. In 1997, myocarditis caused by a strain of the Coxsackie virus was responsible for killing 30 children in Malaysia over the course of three months.

Public health officials are awaiting other tests, but the Health Ministry said special measures are no longer necessary and that people should make sure to practice good personal hygiene.

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