Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Combating H1N1 spread in GCC schools


The Gulf Today, 17 Aug 2009

A comprehensive operational plan will be implemented in the schools of the Gulf region, to prevent the outbreak of H1N1 influenza.

"The precautionary measures for combating the spread of the epidemic have been drafted by the executive council of the Arab health ministers, as the region's schools are preparing for the commencement of the new academic year," said a high-ranking official in the UAE Ministry of Health (MoH).

Dr Ali Ahmed Bin Shakar, Director General of the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Chairman of the Technical Health Committee for Combating Swine Flu, said that the UAE, the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Sultanate of Oman have agreed to execute the unified plan for protecting students, teachers and administration officers of schools in these countries from the swine flu viral infection.

Dr Shakar participated in the GCC health ministers' executive council meeting held on Saturday in Kuwait.

"Before re-opening of schools, an in-depth plan will be charted out to curb the spread of the virus, and measures will be put in place in the event of an outbreak. An interaction with all the concerned bodies, parents, and teachers will be carried out as part of the plan. A special officer has been assigned in this regard, to communicate with all the GCC countries," said Shakar.

"Meanwhile, closure of the H1N1-affected schools will be decided according to the guidelines and measures drafted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the centres for disease control," he noted.

Training in schools

"All schools will be provided instructions on implementing the swine flu prevention measures. Instructors from the ministry of education will also be given training on the basic methods and scientific facts for dealing with the influenza," he added.

According to him, the training will be conducted in coordination with the ministries of education and health.

Media plan

A media plan is also on the cards to raise awareness of the disease in the schools. Prompt actions will be initiated in case of detection of the disease in schools, so as to deal with students with other sorts of health risks.

"Whereas soaring temperatures in the peak of summer have contributed to arresting the spread of the disease in the region, with the onset of winter, the possibility of it spreading with renewed vigour cannot be ruled out," alerted Dr Shakar.

PCR tests vital

"Therefore, the PCR tests on patients arriving from swine flu-affected areas into the region should be strictly monitored for symptoms. There will be detailed monitoring to analyse the patient's condition -- severe or moderate -- to determine whether hospitalisation is required," he pointed out.

Shakar explained, "The PCR tests will be conducted on all cases that have respiratory disease or pneumonia, as well as people with high-risk such as pregnant women, patients with known cardiovascular diseases or diabetes, those who suffer from obesity, patients with genetic blood disorders, chronic kidney or liver patients."

In terms of prevention and treatment, the apex meeting proposed a set of recommendations to control the H1N1 virus. Appropriate treatments, vaccination and methods of use were also discussed in the meeting.

The meeting approved the adoption of home isolation of infected people as the proper scientific solution as per the WHO standards for protecting others from the infection of the virus.

The measures and procedures adopted among member countries for prevention of the swine flu outbreak were also reviewed. It also urged to regularly update the flu monitoring plans in coordination with competent international bodies.

In addition, studies on the patterns of the outbreak of the H1N1 virus Type-A in the member countries were also mandated.

The GCC countries will keep a unified register for all H1N1 cases, an exercise aimed at providing a reference database.

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