Sunday, September 27, 2009

UAE to manufacture medicine for H1N1

The Gulf Today, 27 Sep 2009

The Federal Ministry of Health (MoH) has endorsed Abu Dhabi-based pharmaceuticals manufacturer Neopharma to produce a generic version of Tamiflu for treating H1N1 infection cases in the UAE.
The pharmaceutical company has received on Saturday the MoH clearance to start production of the antiviral medication Oseltamivir BR Flu.
The sanction has been granted during a meeting of the Higher Committee for Registration and Pricing of Medicines, chaired by MoH advisor Dr Abdul Rahim Ja'afar.
According to him, the UAE becomes one of the first countries to have acquired patent rights from the mother companies producing Tamiflu, with the permission to produce the drug against swine flu.
Dr Amin Hussein Al-Amiri, MoH Executive Director for Medical Practices and License Affairs, said, "The higher committee gave the approval to Neopharma following a close study and scrutiny of the company's proposal and the committee's findings which have proven beyond reasonable doubts that the product is safe and meets international standards."
Dr BR Shetty, Managing Director and CEO of Neopharma, said, "The Oseltamivir BR Flu is the outcome of a joint venture with leading pharmaceuticals major Hetero Drugs and is the first in a series of major life-saving drugs being planned to produce over the next few years in the region."
According to him, the approval for Oseltamivir will significantly facilitate medical professionals and the wider community to effectively tackle the lethal H1N1 virus in the region.
"The endorsement for manufacturing the antiviral drug comes at a time when the entire region is gripped by fears over the H1N1 pandemic. The drug is a potential choice to prevent and treat H1N1 flu in the region," he added.
Prashanth Mangath, Chief Financial Controller of Neopharma told The Gulf Today over phone that the company has the capacity to produce two million capsules every month. We will distribute the drug across the Middle East, with the capacity to manufacture around 60 million BR Flu capsules."
"We produce 75 mg capsules in the first phase, while 30 mg and 45 mg capsules as well as 12 mg per ml paediatric preparation powder will be manufactured in the second phase."
"The first batch of the drug is ready, and we will dispatch half a million capsules to Oman within 10 days," he added.
According to him, Neopharma produces the drug with the support of Hetero Drugs, India's Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical manufacturer that meets about 70 per cent of the Indian government's requirements.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Academic year in UAE to commence as scheduled

The Gulf Today, 20 Sep 2009

The commencement of the new academic year in the public sector will not be postponed in the UAE, confirmed the Federal Ministry of Health (MoH).
"Even though there's no intention to put off the start of the academic year, the Ministry of Education (MoE) will have the complete authority to suspend classes partially for some time in a specific school or a group of schools, or even in a particular class," according to a senior MoH official.
Dr Ali Bin Ahmad Al Shakar, Director General of the MoH and Chairman of the Committee for Combating H1N1, said, "Education zones and school administrations would be given powers to postpone classes partially as per the nature of the infected cases in the particular school. The closure decision will come into effect in coordination with the health ministry."
"Central action will put in place after obtaining consent of the apex authority, in the events of swine flu outbreaks in more than one school," Dr Shakar stated after a meeting of the National Supervisory Committee for Combating Swine Flu. The meeting was held to pass an updated executive plan to combat the spread of the virus in the UAE schools.
According to him, the MoH has agreed with the education ministry to set up a working mechanism, as a secondary option to partially delay the commencement of the academic year in the government sector.
The H1N1 panel passed the updated executive plan as well as a media plan that will further strengthen the country's battle against the influenza. The meeting reviewed the vaccination general plan, for when the vaccine is available by the end of October, according to a WAM statement.
The Federal Health Minister Dr Hanif Hassan chaired the H1N1 panel meeting, in which the committee approved both the plans after taking stock of the general situation in schools.
"The committee also provided a plan for effectively handling the situation of spreading the flu in nurseries, kindergartens and centres for the handicapped children," said the chief executive of the ministry.
"The overall situation after two weeks of starting classes in some schools was very stable, despite the detection of individual infections among students. Roles of stakeholders from the health and education ministries as well as other competent authorities handing the H1N1 virus files were determined during the meeting," he added.
"The MoH had handed out eight types of posters and flyers containing educational and preventive tips on the H1N1 influenza to the MoE that will distribute them to schools," he pointed out.
According to him, students' guardians will be given lessons on the methods of dealing with the disease if it hits one of their kids. The H1N1 preventive strategies were drawn up by the MoH, in association with the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fund sought for Gulf returnees

The Gulf Today, 15 Sep 2009

A UAE-based expatriate organisation has urged the Indian government to constitute a bill on a welfare fund to pay pension and other benefits to low-income segment returnees of Non-Residents Indians (NRI).
The Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust has sent the proposal to the Indian Union Ministry of Overseas Affairs and various state governments for the welfare fund that will benefit low and middle income NRIs.
According to KV Shamsudheen, Chairman of the Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust, the Central government of India and state governments should implement a legislation to help NRIs from the respective states, emulating the example of the state of Goa in this regard.
The Goa government had recently drafted a bill for the Non-Resident Goans' Welfare aimed at constituting a welfare fund to pay pension and other benefits to non-resident Indians of Goan origin, when they return and settle permanently in Goa.
"The proposed welfare fund for all Indian expatriates would bring great relief for the low and middle-income group among them. The low-income segment faces a challenging financial situation as they have no resources to continue their present lifestyle when they return to India," said Shamsudheen.
"We request various Indian state governments as well as the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs to constitute a scheme like Provident Fund to safeguard the low and middle income category of NRIs," he said.
According to him, states such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Predesh, Rajasthan and Bihar should follow the Goa model for the benefit of the expatriates from those states.
"The Non Resident Goans' Welfare Fund proposes that every non-resident Goan (NRG) member contribute Indian rupees 300 per month. Also, the NRG returnee member who settles permanently in Goa shall contribute 100 rupees to the fund each month," he added.
He explained that the Goan government will also contribute two per cent of the fund annually. NRGs aged between 18 and 55 years were eligible to register as a member of the fund. But a member cannot withdraw from the fund for five years.
"The proposed fund would be used for payment of pension to members who completed 60 years. It would also be used for payment of family pension on the death of a member, provide financial assistance during illness or accident, for marriage or maternity benefit of women members," he said.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

1 billion plastic bags used per year in UAE

The Gulf Today, 13 Sep 2009

The UAE uses about one billion plastic carrier bags per year, and the plastic material account for 10.9 per cent of the total amount of household waste in the country, according to the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water (MOEW).
About 8,000 tonnes of plastic film, used as the material to make bags and wrapping them, has been produced every month in the country, according to a senior official at the MOEW.
In the wake of the statistics, the MOEW has launched a comprehensive campaign aimed at reducing the use of plastic carrier bags in the country, as a first step towards a complete ban on the bags from the year 2013.
Hunaida Quaed, Head of the Education and Awareness section at the MOEW said that supermarkets and retail outlets and other kinds of business establishments will soon be banned from printing their logos on non-biodegradable plastic carrier bags.
"Approved by the UAE cabinet, the logo ban on plastic bags will come into effect this year. However, it's not yet confirmed that when the regulations will be implemented," she added.
According to her, a range of alternatives including jute bags, canvas bags, paper bags and biodegradable plastic bags, can be used instead of plastic carrier bags.
Dr Maryam AlShinasi, Acting Executive Director for Technical Affairs in the MOEW, said, "The campaign titled 'UAE free of plastic bags' aims to create environmental awareness in the community, by educating them on the hazards of plastic bags that pose high risks to the environment."
"The initiative will focus on encouraging the public to reduce the use of plastic carriers and will educate them on the harmful impact of plastics on the environment," she added.
"All segments of the society should take initiatives individually as well as collectively to reduce the use of plastic bags and contribute to the wellbeing of their surrounding environment," she added.
"A special committee will analyse the standard specifications of plastic bags in collaboration with private sector firms, manufacturers and various municipal authorities in the nation," she added.
Al Shinasi said that the ministry has already held a series of meetings in order to prepare a preliminary draft on the specifications and standards that are commensurate with the nature of the UAE.
She said, "Ministerial decisions will come into effect soon, bringing regulations on the use of plastic bags. The plastic bag manufactures will have to abide by the application of revised specifications and standards in production."
According to her, the initiative consists of four phases, focusing on the awareness sessions in the first phase, and bringing out the available alternatives for plastic bags in the second phase.
"Meanwhile, the third phase pertains to legal actions to be enforced by concerned authorities, and the fourth phase is designed for the actual applications to prevent the use of plastic bags that expire in the year of 2013," added Al Shinasi.
"The plastic bags thrown into trash are usually burnt, which increases the emission of toxic particles into the air and that badly contaminates the atmosphere. So, the anti-plastic carrier awareness sessions, which target local as well as expatriate communities, will be conducted across the country in different languages," said Hunaida Quaed.
She said, "Moreover, the plastic products challenge the existence of above 200 different marine species, including fish, seals and sea turtles, dolphins and whales. A number of marine organisms have died due to the toxic impact of the plastic bags, which account for 10 per cent of the total industrial waste ending up in the sea."
According to her, the plastic bags had caused the deaths of a large number of animals both on the land and in the sea, when they swallowed the bags.

H1N1 portal, MoE website linked

The Gulf Today, 13 Sep 2009

The H1N1 influenza dedicated web portal of the UAE Ministry of Health (MoH), has been e-linked with the website of the Ministry of Education (MoE) on Friday, according to a senior health official.
Dr Ali Ahmed Bin Shakar, Director General of the MoH and Chairman of the Technical Health Committee for Combating H1N1, said, "The latest move has been taken to complement the MoH's efforts to provide updated information about the disease on time."
"Such information will be released in a way that employees of the education ministry as well as other educational institutions will be given can access to the database as well as the measures to be taken by the MoH," he added.
According to him, the dedicated portal will also track updates issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

H1N1 measures
The UAE Education Minister Humaid Mohammed Al Qattami on Friday gave directives for all the schools to take H1N1 precautionary measures without sparking fears among students or affecting classes.
"The principals are incharge of carrying out the mission of educating the staff members and students on methods of combating the H1N1 virus outbreak. A daily newsletter also has to be read at all schools at their morning meetings," he said.
"A team led by principal should be formed in each school for overseeing the swine flu precautionary measures. The principals are also responsible for dealing with suspected H1N1 cases as well as implementing hygiene and protection measures," he said.

WHO's advice
Meanwhile, the WHO on Friday issued advice on measures to be carried out in schools for reducing the impact of the swine flu pandemic, the state newswire WAM said.
These studies were undertaken by members of a WHO informal network for mathematical modelling of the pandemic.
The WHO's recommendations had been drawn in the wake of schools closure announcement in several countries.
In order to avoid the social, economic and health consequences due to the closure of schools, the WHO has urged students, teachers and other school staffs to stay home, if they feel unwell.
According to the WHO, the main benefit of closing the proactive schools comes from slowing down the spread of the outbreak of H1N1 within a given area and thus flattening the peak of infections.
A range of measures have been recommended by the WHO that can be adapted to the local epidemiological situation, available resources, and the social role played by many schools.
"All schools should have effective plans in place as well as secluded space should be made available for isolating students and staff members, who fell ill while at school," recommended the WHO.
In its website it said that schools should promote hand hygiene practices and respiratory etiquette. In order to reduce spread of the virus by crowding, proper cleaning and ventilation measures should be carried out.
"Experience till has demonstrated the role of schools in amplifying transmission of the pandemic virus, both within schools and the wider community. While the outbreak in schools are clearly an important dimension of the current pandemic, no single measure can stop or limit transmission in schools, which provide multiple opportunities for spread of the virus," said the WHO.Eid in Dubai to see marriage of tradition, festivities

Thursday, September 10, 2009

MOEW monitors red tide phenomenon

The Gulf Today, 10 Sep 2009

The UAE Ministry of Environment and Water (MOEW) is monitoring the movement of the red tide phenomenon that has appeared on the east coast of the UAE.
The ministry is taking efforts to control the red tide, which has spread widely across the coast, especially in Dibba, Fujairah, Kalba and Khor Fukhan areas, said a senior official.
"The emergence of the phenomenon in the areas has become intense with odours spreading in several parts of the affected areas," said Dr Ibrahim Al Jamali, director of the Center for Marine Environmental Research (CMER).
"In order to facilitate control of the phenomenon, the CMER has collected samples from the red tide for conducting further analysis and check out the reasons," he added.
According to Jamali, the red tide has become prevalent in the upper layers of water from one to five metres, and the number of their cells comes between 3000 and 200000 per litre. The samples have been tested for vesicles coming 20 to 30 per cent in each litre of affected water.
"Toxicity tests were also conducted, which showed the absence of any types of poisonous elements that causes more dangers. No mortality of fish resources or other marine organisms have also been observed," he pointed out.
"The process of red tide has been assumed as a result of climate change and associated phenomena such as wind, South-West monsoon. The assumption is based on the results of the previous analysis on the issue," he added.
"Meanwhile, the ministry urges fishermen and sea-goers to follow the guidelines and abide by the regulations drawn by the authorities aimed at keeping public health and safety standards," noted Jamali.
"They are advised not to fish in the areas where red tides have appeared, as well as to avoid collecting and eating fish products killed by red tide. Also, swimming in the affected areas will harm their health such as allergenic and respiratory complications," he added.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dubai Metro gets cyber geeks abuzz

The Gulf Today, 9 Aug 2009

As Dubai metro is to open to the public from Sept.10, livetweets among the passengers will be pumping their messages onto Twitter from the inaugural train itself! They are excitedly looking forward to he debut day. The tweets will be posted on Twitter's MYDUBAIMETRO, an unofficial Dubai metro website for community networking.
Twitterer Sam Mohtady, a PR consultant at Impact Porter Novelli in Dubai, thinks that Wifi on the Dubai Metro would be awesome. However he's not sure that mobile wifi users are the target riders.
He asked, "Is anyone seriously intrigued by the metro opening? Have you seen the track layout? I mean, how convenient could it be?"

Rush for 'gold'
DubaiTwestival, an event for activists, has taken bids for a Golden Ticket to ride Dubai Metro on its debut running. The golden pass was auctioned live on Twitter on Sep. 7 and of all the proceeds are to be donated to their supported charity, Dubai Autism Center.
Several of Dubai's twitterati bid for the remarkable chance to win the auction, which was held live on Twitter. The enthusiastic bids were quickly being topped up with the final bid at Dhs.1,000. Twitterer Samer Costantini was later announced as the golden pass winner to enjoy the inaugural ride of the metro train.
The owners of DubaiTwestival 2009 have thanked Dubai metro and the RTA for offering them the 'Golden Pass,' which is a chance to experience the first ride at the launch Dubai Metro.
The winner will be twittering on the exciting exclusive lifetime opportunity to travel on the metro's inaugural ride.
KV Shamsudheen, an expatriate social worker, wrote on His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum's Wall on Facebook: "The metro dream project will become a reality tomorrow on the Global Happiness Day of 09/09/09. Having been a resident of the UAE for the last four decades, each development of the country gives me immense pleasure. I congratulate His Highness on this auspicious occasion."

'Historic milestone'
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum is very excited about the launch of the Dubai Metro on 09/09/09. He calls it a historic milestone that reflects what Dubai is capable of achieving. Shyan Princess is wondering which launch in the year 2009 will be more of a hit on Sep.9 - the launch of Dubai Metro or that of Apple? Ossama M. Faour claims that 09-09-09 is the ultimate date. He is excited about Apple's announcement, saying "Metro Opens in Dubai, Internet Heroes Opens in Metro Stations and E-City Opens in MOE."

The '9s' factor
"Do you guys know that tomorrow is a special day? It will be 09.09.2009 and it's even luckier for me as I'm a 9 person (born on 27, 2+7=9)! And the Dubai Metro will start operating at 9am as well. They sure know how to set special days!" remarked Tunde Bodri.
Meanwhile, a twitter feed named 'Earn Money' from Chicago opined that Dubai is tying economic hopes to new metro. The post said: "The traffic is a lot better than it used to be." "As the very first metro in the Gulf States, Dubai metro will be a very successful project," hopes Saad Al Dosari, an engineer from Saudi Arabia on Twitter.

Downturn melter
"The opening of Dubai Metro on Wednesday could mark a turning point in the emirate's fortunes as it tries to spend its way out of the worst economic downturn in a generation," quotes a Twitter feed titled clippinx, analysing an article from the Wall Street Journal.
Alexandra Jauncey, who goes by the name Dillyflower, is looking forward to riding in the sky on Dubai Metro, while Kashif Rehmat "can't wait for the Dubai metro!" He hopes that once it's launched, Dubai Metro will be among the world's best and busiest metro networks.
He posted a video online of the Dubai metro train's trial run between the Nakheel and Dubai Marina stations. Khamis Bin Touq has also posted a video of the trial run of the world's largest automated driverless system.
Shahbaa, who goes by the alias Sherif Abaza, said that he received an email from RTA saying the operating hours for Dubai Metro will be from 5am to 1am. Lorena Bruner asked if anyone else is just as excited about the Dubai Metro. Meanwhile, Abdulla W Al Dabbagh is keen on reading news and other coverage on the opening of Dubai metro.
"I am really looking forward to seeing this thing running," wrote Hamad T Alhomaizi from Kuwait on DUBAI METRO's wall on Facebook.
Zayed Mohd Qazafi also shared his wonder on Facebook, saying, "I can't wait for the launch of the most beautiful train! I'm proud of Dubai, where I live. And 9/9/9 is an awesome date, eh? On top of that, it's my lucky number. Here we gooooooooooooooo DXB Metro, woooooow!"
In another wall post on Facebook, Joseph Martoni Juezan states, "I am working with Dubai Metro as an architect. I am also excited and I can't wait to see the fruits of our hard work and sacrifice. Go, go, go Dubai Metro!"

Waiting for ride
Kumaraswamy Ramasamy wrote, "It's been a long wait to ride on Dubai Metro. It was great to see recent test runs. As everything continues to go as planned, we hope to get better transportation in the city."
Kunjumon Kunjus, also on Facebook, is also waiting for the launch of the world's longest driverless metro with amazement. According to Sherly Philip from Chicago, she can't wait to see that in Dubai. "I am looking forward to sitting and riding on this Metro Transit system soon," said Joanne Valenzuela.
According to Facebooker Jana Hallab, "09-09-09 is the best day ever!!!" Mirna Hallab also can't wait for the date.
Meanwhile, also on Facebook, Nabil Ahmed stated that he would appreciate if the Metro were operated in Al Ain as well.
Krishna Gopal is eagerly waiting for the metro to start on Sep.9. He trusts that the new mode of public transportation will solve the chaos and traffic jams in Dubai.

Swine flu kills baby and senior citizen in UAE

The Gulf Today, 9 Aug 2009

The death toll from H1N1 influenza has jumped to six in the UAE with two more cases of fatalities reported on Tuesday.
The UAE Ministry of Health (MoH) has confirmed that the victims of the new swine flu cases included an Emirati senior citizen, aged 75 years, and an eight-month-old Emirati toddler.
“The elderly man had suffered from chronic diseases and severe respiratory complications called dyspnea, while the infant was facing cardiac disorders and undergone treatments in the US,” revealed the ministry in a WAM statement.
“The UAE government has been playing an active role in combating the spread of the disease in the country ever since the outbreak of the disease around the world,” said Dr Ali Ahmed Bin Shakar, Director General of the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Chairman of the Technical Health Committee for Combating H1N1.
“Various health authorities and operators in the healthcare industry are taking effective steps and curative measures to prevent the spread of the disease,” he added.
Meanwhile, the MoH has stated the number of death cases due to swine flu is less than 0.5 per cent, if compared to the total reported cases of H1N1 virus infection in the UAE.
A 63-year-old Indian man was the first reported swine flu fatality in the UAE that happened on Aug.18 at Dubai Hospital.
The second prey to H1N1 virus in the country was a 30-year-old Pakistani pregnant woman, who died three weeks after the first fatality. Her baby also had been delivered by a Caesarean-section, as she suffered severe complications due to H1N1 virus infection.
The third death was of a 28-year-old Syrian woman from Sharjah on Sept.1 due to the H1N1 infection. The victim was admitted to Al Zahra Hospital in Sharjah on Aug.18 after suffering from chest pains, cough, diarrhea and pneumonia. It was confirmed on Aug.30 that she had been affected by the H1N1 virus and passed away on the second day.
The MoH later launched a probe into the death of the woman. A special committee is reviewing the treatment procedures applied on her and the actual reasons behind her death.
The fourth person who succumbed to H1N1 infection was a 26-year-old Indian nurse. The victim Deepti Gopinath died on Sept.1 at Al Ain Hospital, days after delivering a baby girl.
Eight-month pregnant Deepti was admitted to the hospital on Aug.22 with severe respiratory complications and had undergone a Caesarian section to deliver her baby. She was confirmed to have swine flu infection on Aug.30 and died on Sep1.
The MoH had disclosed that two out of the total six swine flu fatalities were young women in the late stages of their pregnancy.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

H1N1 claims 2 more lives in UAE

The Gulf Today, 3 Sep 2009
The death toll from swine flu in the UAE has reached four with the Ministry of Health (MoH) on Wednesday confirming the death of two more women due to H1N1 virus infection.
The state news agency WAM has reported that the latest fatalities from the influenza in the country include a pregnant woman.
She had been admitted ten days ago to an unspecified hospital after showing respiratory complications and other H1N1 symptoms.
The ministry said, "A Caesarean-section was performed at the hospital to save the life of her baby, who remains in a healthy condition now. However, the woman passed away."
Meanwhile, the MoH has launched an investigation into the death of a second woman due to swine flu.
"A special committee will analyse the second swine flu fatality, in accordance with the Medical Responsibility (Liability) Law, and submit a detailed report on the case," said Dr Ali Ahmed Bin Shakar, the MoH Director General.
"The panel will probe the circumstances surrounding the death, such as the condition of the woman when she was admitted, suspected swine flu complications, later development of the disease and all other aspects, including the possibility of negligence that caused her death," said the MoH.
WAM said that the Minister of Health, Dr Hanif Hassan, had issued a ministerial decision on procedural guidelines to help investigate medical errors. Unresolved incidents are reviewed by an apex medical liability committee established by a Federal Law passed in the year 2008.
"The guidelines were set to investigate medical errors and each hospital has a special committee to carry out such investigations, while serious incidents are referred to local or federal health authorities," the MoH explained.
The Medical Responsibility (Liability) Law addresses doctor-patient relations and defines medical error. It also has provisions on medical practice and related professions.