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Swine Flu Fears Lead To Designer Masks In Kazakhstan

Fashion designer Gulnara Zhunusova shows a model mask against swine flu.
SEMEY, Kazakhstan -- A Kazakh fashion studio is producing what it calls "glamour surgical masks" as the fear of contracting swine flu spreads across the country, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Gulnara Zhunusova, the owner of the fashion studio Inkar Sezimi in the eastern city of Semey (formerly known as Semipalatinsk), said that the idea to create the designer surgical masks came after more and more people in the country began wearing the masks to prevent flu infections.

Kazakhstan was the first Central Asian country to report an outbreak of swine flu, and has thus far confirmed 17 cases.

The outbreak led thousands of people to begin wearing surgical masks in public.

Zhunusova says her studio's masks -- which are decorated with rhinestones and other costume jewelry -- cost between 150-200 tenges ($1-$1.33) each.

Zhunusova says many people are uneasy about wearing surgical masks in public and suggests the decorated masks might help them feel more comfortable.

She added that her collection of designer masks has thus far been popular with women in Semey and that Inkar Sezimi is now also working on decorated surgical masks for men.