Abu Dhabi: A few months ago, hospitals across the UAE were claiming they needed more staff to handle a feared spike in H1N1 cases. But health professionals now say they are seeing very few new cases of flu.
After numerous public wareness campaigns during the past six months on the importance of overall hygiene in preventing the spread of swine flu, there seems to be less such campaigns.
A recent statement sent to Gulf News by Dr Jamal Al Mutawa, Section Head, Communicable Diseases at Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD), said: "The H1N1 influenza continues to have evidence of being active, but with declining transmission or remain low in Abu Dhabi."
Dr Charles Stanford, Senior Director in LifeLine Hospital, was one of the most active medical professionals to launch educational campaigns for school students regarding H1N1 prevention. When Gulf News spoke to him about updates regarding the disease he said: "We had up to 64 patients with H1N1 in last September, however since October we've witnessed a dramatic drop, with as little as one patient a month.
"The spread of H1N1 awareness campaigns in the past few months, especially among school children, who were encouraged to use alcohol scrubs and hand sanitisers, can be a factor that contributed to the decline," Stanford said.
Less patients complaining of influenza-like symptoms does not necessarily mean that the virus has disappeared, added the hospital director. "It just means that people are handling the disease themselves, by simply taking paracetamol, drinking lot of fluids and resting."
Dr Ravi Arora, internist at the NMC Specialty Hospital, reported more than 400 patient visits with influenza-like symptoms, during August and September, which he claims were the peak months for H1N1 cases. In January, NMC reported 21 such cases to the HAAD, and only two cases in the past two weeks. "The virus is not spreading anymore. It could be because people are now taking adequate precautions," he said.
A statement sent to Gulf News exclusively, from Dr. Jamal Al Mutawa, Section Head, Communicable Diseases at HAAD, said:
"The Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) encourages all residents, especially those among the priority groups, to take the H1N1 vaccine in the pre-allocated medical centers and clinics, to protect themselves from catching the H1N1 influenza and further limit its spread in the community."
For more information on H1N1 influenza and the vaccine, please contact HAAD customer service centre on 800800 or visit www.haad.ae/h1n1
Statement of the World Health Organization (WHO) on allegations of conflict of interest and ‘fake' pandemic
"WHO takes allegations of conflict of interest seriously and is confident of its decision-making independence regarding the pandemic influenza. The world is going through a real pandemic. The description of it as a fake is wrong and irresponsible."
Additional allegations that WHO created a ‘fake' pandemic to bring economic benefit to the pharmaceutical industry are scientifically wrong and historically incorrect.
Lab analyses showed that this influenza virus was genetically and antigenically very different from other influenza viruses circulating among people
Epidemiological information provided by Mexico, the US and Canada demonstrated person-to-person transmission.
Clinical information, especially from Mexico, indicated this virus also could cause severe disease and death. At the time, those reports did not indicate a pandemic situation, but taken together sent a very strong warning to WHO and other public health authorities to be ready for one.
As the pandemic evolved, clinicians identified a very severe form of primary viral pneumonia, which was rapidly progressive and frequently fatal, that is not part of the disease pattern seen during seasonal influenza. While these cases were relatively rare, they imposed a heavy burden on intensive care units.
Geographical spread was exceptionally rapid.
On 29 April 2009, WHO reported lab confirmed cases in 9 countries.
About 6 weeks later, on 11 June, WHO reported cases in 74 countries and territories in more than two WHO regions. It is this global spread which led WHO to call for increasing phases and finally, to announce that a pandemic was underway.
By 1 July, infections had been confirmed in 120 countries and territories.