There is a defined process to test patients for Covid-19 Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: Doctors at private hospitals in the UAE are following a set protocol to screen flu patients and test them for COVID-19 if deemed necessary, as per the guidelines of the Ministry of Health amd Prevention (MOHAP), Dubai Health Authority (DHA), World Health Organisation (WHO) and Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

Residents need not panic if they have cold and flu.

Not everyone with a cold or upper respiratory symptoms need to get tested, said Dr Abdulla Al Rasasi, Head of Preventive Medicine Section in Public Health Protection Department at the DHA.

“There is an updated guideline from UAE health authorities. People who require to undergo a screening for COVID-19 are those with upper or lower respiratory symptoms — with or without fever or anyone with a severe acute respiratory infection without an alternative explanatory diagnosis, such as a flu; and the person has travelled to a country with widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the last 14 days prior to the symptoms; or the person has cared for or come into contact with an individual known or strongly suspected to have COVID-19.”

Patients can report to public or private hospitals

Dr Ahmed Abdel Hameed, specialist Internal Medicine at the Medcare Women and Children Hospital, told Gulf News: “In Dubai, Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has been constantly updating protocol on a daily basis and adding precautions beyond the guidelines of WHO and CDC to contain the spread of COVID-19.

"Under the definition of a 'suspected case', the patients must have travel history in the previous 14 days to any of the seven places — China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Iran or Italy or must have been in close contact with a Covid 19 patient.

"Such individuals are made to answer a detailed questionnaire while they are are triaged. Based on their replies they are quarantined in a negative pressure room. These rooms are such that they do not allow air from within to go outside to contain any airborne spread.”

Unified protocols

  • 1. Patients are checked for symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath, upper or lower respiratory system infections, and even minor symptoms of sneezing, pain in the throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • 2. A throat swab is taken and sent to the Central Virology Lab at Latifa Hospital.
  • 3. The lab results, out in under 24 hours, confirms if the patient is positive or negative for Covid-19.
  • 4. If negative, the patient is provided symptomatic treatment for flu or cold.
  • 5. If positive the health ministry is notified and the patient taken to a designated isolation ward set up specifically for Covid-19 patients.

General guidelines and hygiene tips to follow

Dr Al Rasasi cautioned people about greeting anyone who is sick and refrain from hand touching or hugs.

“This will prevent picking up the virus from the other person, even if it is a common cold. It is better to follow these basic precautions, particularly at this point in time but all throughout the year, especially in the winter months.”

He said those with flu symptoms need to follow precautions to avoid spreading the germs.

Dr Hend Al Awadhi, Head of Health Promotion and Education Section in the DHA’s Public Health Protection Department said: “People with a flu should always follow certain precautions to avoid the spread of the disease. Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, correct disposal of tissues; hand-hygiene is particularly important.

"If you are sick, stay indoors, stay at home and get the rest you need. If you fall under the category that requires COVID-19 testing, take all necessary steps to prevent the spread of infection and go to the nearest healthcare centre.”

What is the treatment for COVID-19?

In terms of recovery and treatment, she said, “It is a virus so there is only supportive treatment for the disease that helps control the symptoms such as fever and cold.

"Recovery of the patient depends on the patient’s immune system and the medical care provided. In most cases, patients recover once the body overcomes the virus.”

DHA also asked residents only to rely on information from official sources and call the DHA call centre - 800 342, Estijaba service at the operation center, Department of Health – 8001717 or Ministry of Health & Prevention – 80011111.