by Naharnet Newsdesk 10 February 2016, 14:00

Health Minister Wael Abou Faour denied on Wednesday a link between Lebanon’s trash crisis and the rise of H1N1 cases, saying at least four people died of swine flu this year.

“Scientifically speaking, there is no direct or indirect link between the garbage and swine flu,” Abou Faour said during a press conference.

The trash crisis erupted in July last year when the country’s main landfill in Naameh was closed. Since then, trash has piled up on the streets.

Municipalities that are collecting the garbage are dumping the waste under bridges and valleys, raising concern over an environmental and health disaster.

Some are also resorting to burning rubbish, causing toxic fumes.

“Based on the available data, there has been a 20 percent rise in the hospitalization of people infected with the H1N1 virus,” said Abou Faour.

“The rise is linked to the improvement in reporting cases and the worldwide increase in swine flu infections,” he said.

“Last year, five people died from H1N1. This year there are four confirmed and two unconfirmed deaths from the virus,” he added.

Abou Faour urged the Lebanese not to worry about the virus, saying no epidemic is in sight.

The flu vaccines are available in the market, he said, advising the people to take precautionary measures near infected people.

H1N1 is a respiratory disease that is contracted through contact between humans and pigs.

It is transmitted between people through inhalation, but not from eating pork-related products, according to health experts.

A major H1N1 outbreak sparked a World Health Organization pandemic alert in June 2009, after the virus emerged from Mexico and the United States.

The epidemic killed around 18,500 people in 214 countries. The alert was lifted in August 2010.