Abu Dhabi: The National Supervisory Committee for Combating Swine Flu and the Ministry of Health (MoH) have decided to double the stocks of Tamifllu tablets and are currently preparing an emergency plan to help combat possible breakout of swine flu, Gulf News has learnt.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali, Minister of Health spoke to Gulf News about precautionary measures the ministry is preparing in case the region is affected.

"To date the UAE is not affected by swine flu, however, precautionary measures are necessary. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that if a person tests positive for swine flu he/she spends five to seven days in isolation while being treated. However the UAE health ministry decided to increase the number of days to ten in order to assure full safety measures are in place," the minister said, adding that laboratories across the UAE are prepared to test for the virus.

"We already have enough laboratories across the UAE, but are working on adding more advanced techniques to help speed up the process of influenza findings," Dr Hassan said.

In a statement to WAM on Sunday, Dr Hassan emphasised that all necessary precautionary measures are in place, including complete coordination among all concerned bodies at federal and local levels.

A 10-tablet pack of Tamiflu is available in pharmacies across the UAE upon prescription, and costs up to Dh180. Relenza inhalers cost up to Dh86.50.

Abu Dhabi UAE officials have urged the public not to panic over detection of the first case of swine flu in the country.

Speaking to Gulf News, a senior Ministry of Health official, said: "There is no need for panic, although the first case of H1N1 infection was detected in the country. The case was identified because the Ministry of Health is vigilant and can handle such situations efficiently and effectively."

The official noted that it is not strange for a passenger from Canada to be detected with the flu, as it is an affected area. "The world is interconnected and it would not be possible for us to isolate the country from such potential threats. However, the most significant fact is that we were able to detect the flu and contain it," he said.

"The victim has recovered," he said, adding that timely intervention and planned action helped cure the victim.

"Thankfully, none of the passengers who were on the same flight as the victim developed any flu symptoms," he said.

It was on Sunday evening that the first case of the flu was confirmed. Early last week, a passenger who arrived in the capital from Canada was quarantined by authorities as he showed H1N1 flu symptoms.

The man, whose identity has not been revealed by authorities, voluntarily went to a hospital in Al Ain after he recognised flu symptoms. His blood sample was then sent to London for testing, while he was quarantined.

The man will continue to be in isolation for a few more days until he completes his medication. "However, this is only a precautionary measure in accordance with WHO protocol and procedures.. the victim no longer has flu symptoms," the official said.

WHO has observed that most cases of the H1N1 infection seem to be mild and self-limited and do not require admission to hospital. But severe illness and death have been reported in a small proportion of cases.

- With inputs from Abdulla Rasheed, Abu Dhabi Editor

India: Air hostess monitored

An Etihad cabin crew member has been quarantined in India over swine flu suspicion, Gulf News has learnt.

The incident happened yesterday morning when the flight from Abu Dhabi landed at the Kochi International Airport in the southern Indian state of Kerala.

"An Egyptian female member of the cabin crew was brought in as she showed flu symptoms", confirmed an official working at Perumbavoor Taluk hospital in Kochi. The victim is under medical surveillance and swabs have been sent to a laboratory in New Delhi for testing.

An Etihad Airways spokesman said: "A member of the cabin crew is currently being tested in India for swine flu after complaints of feeling unwell. The tests are being carried out as a precautionary measure and for the time being the crew member is being kept under supervision at a local hospital. The crew are aware on how to behave in case they are not feeling well, whom to report and so on", said the official.

- Rayeesa Absal, Staff Reporter

Your comments

The H1N1 flu doesn't look more dangerous to me than other types of flu. Take precautions; wash your hands often with soap and water and if you have to sneeze do it in your sleeve not in your hand or in the air. Eat a lot of veggies that is good for the immune system and keeps the body strong.
Mariam Sor
Posted: May 26, 2009, 11:25