Abu Dhabi: More than 10 million packets of Tamiflu are currently available to cover 20 per cent of the UAE population in case of a swine flu outbreak, Gulf News has learnt.

The 10-tablet pack of Tamiflu - generic name oseltamivir, which costs up to Dh180 - is a prescription medicine that prevents the spread of virus from cell to cell and helps reduce the symptoms and duration of an influenza infection by approximately one and a half days if treatment is started within 48 hours after symptoms arise.

"We first stockpiled this much Tamiflu two years ago, when we stocked over one million tablets in a bid to combat possible outbreak of a bird flu virus among people, so the drug is well known to be influenza effective," a senior official from the health ministry told Gulf News.

The UAE health minister, Dr Hanif Hassan Ali also spoke to Gulf News about the importance of taking precautionary measures in case of a future outbreak in the UAE.

"Even though the UAE remains unaffected [from original cases], we must be prepared in case of a crisis or emergency and for that purpose ordered to duplicate the sale of Tamiflu tablets, and are on our way to adding an extra two million swine flu vaccines," said the health minister.

The new vaccines, which vary in name, are antigens that enter the body and create an antibody that helps a person become immune to the virus, explained a spokesperson from the National Supervisory Committee for Combating Swine Flu.

"These vaccines have different names since they arrive from different pharmaceutical companies," added the official.

A senior official from the preventive medicine department under the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company said that in general there is a flu virus going round in the UAE, and not swine flu.

- With inputs from Abdullah Rasheed, Abu Dhabi Editor, additional information from MedicineNet.com.

Combating virus: New plan approved

Liaison officers from GCC countries held an emergency meeting in Riyadh on Tuesday where they approved a strategic plan presented by Saudi Arabia, to combat the H1N1 virus as a united Gulf plan.

The new plan approved by the council yesterday represents the foundation for any future plan presented by the GCC.
Every country will also have the right to activate its own plans within its borders.

The plan concentrates on the importance of land, sea and air exit and entrance points to face the virus that may be carried by a passenger. The plan also emphasised setting virus scanners at checkpoints and distributing health guides.