Dubai: A school in Dubai has asked parents not to send their children to school if they are sick, following the death of a nine-year old student.

Ameena Sharaf, a grade 4 student of Our Own Indian High School, died on October 29, due to an acute viral infection, possibly flu. She was first admitted to a leading hospital in Bur Dubai on October 22 and shifted to the Al Jalila Children’s Hospital (AJCH) on October 24 as the infection had affected her heart. She was being treated for nausea, vomiting, fever and fatigue but the virus had affected her heart and she succumbed to her condition.

GEMS Education issued a circular to parents, advising them not to take their children’s illness lightly. A spokesperson from the group told Gulf News: “We have issued a health advisory and advised parents not to send their children to the school if they are sick. We recommend them to consult the doctors and to take all necessary precautions. The wellness of our students is of paramount importance to us.”

AJCH issued a statement offering their condolences on the sad demise of their patient. It said: “Ameena initially showed symptoms of typical flu with fever, but later on was referred to Al Jalila Children’s on October 24 as a case of severe heart failure that might have been caused by a virus. We consider this a rare and unique case due to an abnormal response of the child’s immune system, that eventually caused her heart to become very weak and led to her very sad demise. Our sincere and wholehearted condolences go out to her family as we share their immense pain and loss. In general, we advise all parents to keep their children at home if they develop any fever, and subsequently consult with a paediatrician if the fever persists for more than 48 hours.”

Ameena is survived by three other siblings.

Meanwhile, parents of students studying in other schools also said they received circulars asking them to be vigilant, discouraging them on sending their children to school if they are sick, to stop the spread of any contagion.

GEMS education expressed deep regret at Ameena’s death. A statement by the GEMS spokesperson read: “We are saddened by the passing away of Miss Ameena Anoum Sharaf, a Grade 4 B student at Gems Our Own Indian School Dubai. Ameena passed away after an acute illness. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones in this unfortunate and trying time. Our counsellors are in touch with Ameena’s classmates and we will extend all support to them. Ameena was an extremely bright, talented and cheerful student, loved by her friends and teachers. We deeply mourn the loss.”

What is influenza?

Influenza, commonly called the ‘flu’, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by different strains of viruses, explained Dr Ahmad Mohammad Abdul Hameed, specialist in internal medicine at the Medcare Women and Children’s Hospital. “Flu is manifested as fever, cold and chills and the symptoms usually last 5-7 days. However, as per the World Health Organisation (WHO) advisory, it is important for those in vulnerable categories such as children, the geriatric population and those suffering from respiratory diseases or diabetes and other comorbidities to get themselves vaccinated,” said the doctor.

Dr Abdul Hameed added: “Every year, the flu viruses strike around autumn and can cause mild to severe illness, at times even lead to death. Every year, the vaccine contains the new strain of the virus which can keep you protected up to 70 per cent from the infection, for the entire year.”

Influenza dos and don’ts

  • Do practice hand hygiene: use hand sanitisers to keep hands clean.
  • Do have plenty of Vitamin C to build immunity.
  • Do visit the doctor if you have any fever, cough or chills.
  • Do get a lot of rest.
  • Do take steam inhalation to keep the respiratory tract free of viruses.
  • Do cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Do vaccinate your child.
  • Don’t ignore your child’s fever, cough or chills; seek medical help immediately.
  • Don’t send your child to school if he or she has fever.
  • Don’t use public areas such as Turkish baths and swimming pools that can spread viral infections.
  • Don’t take infections of any kind lightly, especially in vulnerable groups such as children, senior citizens, patients of respiratory diseases such as asthma or those suffering from diabetes, hypertension and cardio vascular disease, who have compromised immunity. Seek medical help immediately to stabilise such people.
  • Don’t ignore the doctor’s suggestion of getting a flu vaccination.