By Gavin Gibbon
Dubai Health Authority officials call for calm and for citizens to remain vigilant
Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has issued advice to residents in the emirate concerned about the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.
Currently there have been 21 cases of the virus confirmed in the UAE – five people initially diagnosed have recovered, while two remain in a “serious” condition.
Abdulla Al Rasasi, head of preventative medicine section in the public health department at DHA, said: My advice to community members would be to avoid getting into a panic mode. All the relevant authorities including health authorities in the UAE are working together in a streamlined and unified process. We have medical teams at Dubai airports and these teams are present 24/7.”
Al Rasasi added that airport authorities are carrying out strict measures such as non-intrusive thermal screening for all passengers that arrive at Dubai airports and passengers from countries with a high infection rate are screened twice.
Who should get tested?
Not everyone with a cold or upper respiratory symptoms need to get tested, said Al Rasasi.
“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 traveled 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.”
Where should I go to get tested?
Al Rasasi explained that, in cases where testing is necessary: “Reducing the risk of infecting others begins at home. The first or immediate step is to isolate yourself from family members, request them to buy a mask for you and then go to the nearest medical centre. People can go to DHA hospitals or health centres or private hospitals or health centres in Dubai. DHA has regularly issued guidelines and protocols and the system is unified.
“At the health centre, it is important to immediately inform doctors of your travel history and reason of suspecting that you may have the virus. Healthcare professionals will isolate you and conduct a swab test and the person will remain in isolation until the heath facility receives the results.
“If it is positive, the patient will be further isolated. If it is negative, the person should follow home isolation until 14 days from the date of travel or from the last date of contact with a positive case. This is a precautionary measure and should be followed by the patient.”
Who will decide whether I need to get tested or not?
Al Rasasi reiterated that not everyone with an upper or lower respiratory illness requires to get tested.
“If you fall under any of the above mentioned criteria, it is a community obligation and duty to get tested and follow all steps such as wearing a mask at the health centre.
However, if you feel you have a cold or flu and head to a health centre for treatment, your doctor will decide whether you need a COVID-19 test or not. They are experts and will make an assessment based on your individual case.”
General guidelines and hygiene tips to follow
Al Rasasi said that people should avoid 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.
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.”
Al Awadhi said that facemasks are recommended for people who are sick with a flu to prevent infecting others, but it is not a precaution to protect yourself against the flu or COVID-19.
Al Awadhi said that everyone must maintain hand-hygiene, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds and avoid close contact with anyone showing the symptoms.
“If you don’t have access to soap and water use a hand sanitizer, if you greet someone with respiratory symptoms do not touch their hands or hug the person,” she said.
What is the treatment for COVID-19?
In terms of recovery and treatment, Al Awadhi 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.”
She also added that people should only rely on information from official sources and those who have any query can call the following numbers DHA call centre - 800 342, Estijaba service at the operation centre, Department of Health – 8001717 or Ministry of Health & Prevention – 80011111.