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Wed 29 Dec 2010 10:25 AM

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Middle East swine flu outbreaks yet to rattle UAE

Fresh outbreaks in Egypt, Syria and UK yet to impact on UAE, say doctors

Middle East swine flu outbreaks yet to rattle UAE
NO FEARS: Swine Flu has yet to reappear in the UAE according to doctors (Supplied Image)

Swine flu outbreaks in Egypt, Syria and the UK have yet to raise fears of a fresh occurrence of the disease in the transit hub of the UAE, doctors have said.

Despite Dubai’s role as a significant transit point for travellers- nearly 35 million passed through Dubai Airport in the first nine months of the year – the UAE has sidestepped a resurgence of H1N1 in regional countries.

 “Definitely, I can say that in the last six months, we haven’t had any proved cases of swine flu,” Dr Abdul Rahman Mohammed, head of department, Emergency, Welcare Hospital, said.

“I’m quite aware that there has been a resurgence of this [swine flu] in the UK and Egypt, so we’re keeping an open mind. Everybody who comes in with the flu and doesn’t look very well is given the special test, but it’s not like previously.”

More than 500 new cases of H1N1 swine flu have been reported in Egypt in recent weeks, with eight deaths attributed to the disease.

In Syria, the health ministry said that three people had died from complications attributed to swine flu.

Some 90 cases of H1N1 have been reported in Kuwait in the last twelve months, the Ministry of Health said on Monday.

The UK, which is in the grip of its seasonal flu season, has seen an increasing prevalence of H1N1 swine flu infection. According to government data, some 460 people were receiving critical care in hospitals last week for flu-related symptoms, while the death toll had risen to 27-  24 of which involved H1N1.

The World Health Organisation has described the virus as being in a ‘post-pandemic period’, following a global panic in 2009 after swine flu cases were reported around the world.

The WHO said the virus is now expected to take on the behaviour of the seasonal influenza virus, causing sporadic, localised outbreaks of the type currently seen in Egypt and Syria.

The UAE Ministry of Health has yet to circulate any guidelines on the cluster outbreaks.

Dr Masarat Mehboob, a specialist in internal medicine at Gulf Medical College, Ajman, said it was recommended that people at high risk – the very young or old, and pregnant women – were vaccinated if the disease became a significant enough threat.

“Initially, when the swine flu first came, there were some guidelines, like who to test and who not to, but as of now nothing new has come through,” Dr Mehboob said.

“I must be frank; I wasn’t actually worried the last time it was here, because I know for a fact that normal seasonal flu is more dangerous and has higher mortality rates than swine flu,” Dr Mohammed said. “Of course, for certain groups, it becomes very severe, but generally speaking, it [swine flu] isn’t very different from the seasonal flu that we get every year.”