KIEV, Ukraine — A swine flu outbreak in Eastern Europe and the Middle East has killed hundreds this winter, with Ukraine the hardest hit.


More than 3.2 million people in Ukraine have been diagnosed since October with the H1N1 virus and most are under 17, the government health ministry reported Tuesday.


It reported a total of 246 deaths from the disease. One hundred and seven deaths from H1N1 were reported in Russia, 18 in Armenia, 10 in Georgia and 112 in Iran. There are reports of dozens more in Islamic State-occupied regions of Iraq and Syria.


“Western European countries are also reporting severe cases associated with H1N1. It’s all over the region at the moment.” said Dr. Caroline Brown, the World Health Organization’s program manager for influenza in Europe.


In Ukraine, 3,000 people per day are being hospitalized. Schools across the country are closed, for the third consecutive week, and workers who deal with the public have been ordered to wear surgical masks to slow the highly contagious virus.


Ukraine’s public health services, hampered by years of war, mismanagement and a rocky economy, are struggling to provide aid.


While vaccines are available, less than one percent of Ukraine’s population of 45 million has been vaccinated, and medications including Tamiflu and Relenza are in short supply, despite donations of the medicines from Lithuania.


Hundreds of medical personnel fled Ukraine during 22 months of civil war, and many others left after working without pay.


Gephardt Daily