About 350 A(H1N1) influenza cases have been confirmed in Qatar, according to the Supreme Council for Health. Qatar now has the third largest number of swine flu cases in the GCC, after Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as per the latest WHO reports. The ministry expects to see an increase in the number of cases in winter.
“So far, 1,150 suspected cases have been reported in Qatar and sent for laboratory tests,” said Dr Mohammed Al Thani, director of the Public Health Department and chairman of the National Preparedness Committee. “Out of this, 350 cases are confirmed to have swine flu. Most of the cases have recovered fully even without hospital check-in. Some 50 cases are still receiving treatment but are recovering,” he said while addressing media persons yesterday.
However, there is little reason to panic as there has been no transmission of the disease within the country, the ministry said. Most of the patients here contracted the disease outside the country. In a few cases, close associates and family members of those infected were found to have the disease; still, there had been no outbreak of the disease within Qatar, the ministry said.
Unlike common flu, swine flu spreads fast and it has become nearly impossible to control its spread. “At present, our target is to reduce the mortality and spread of the disease. Hence the appearance of new cases is much less compared to earlier months. The WHO has relaxed many of its surveillance measures as it is as common as any other flu,” Dr Al Thani said.
Updates on the pandemic are no more needed from the affected countries, according to the WHO. Medication within 48 hours of contracting the virus and preventive medication can help reduce the risks related to the flu.
“Anyone who suspects having the flu should take the medicine in the first 48 hours to get optimum benefit. He can go to the nearest health centre to evaluate his health condition. There is no need to panic,” Dr Al Thani said.
The ministry is also prepared to meet the expected increase in swine flu cases over winter.
“We have a special lab in place and it will be expanded and more staff will be recruited to meet any future needs. However, since patients will be quarantine at home, provided they fulfil certain conditions that can protect the family and society, quarantining at HMC will be restricted to those without proper isolation facilities at home or those with severe complications,” said Dr Abdul Latif Al Khal, Head of the Communicable Diseases Unit at HMC.
He also said there was no need for laboratory tests for each and every suspected case.
“Even though the disease resembles common flu, it can be easily detected by expert doctors in most cases. They are put directly on medication. Most of the deaths worldwide are due to acute infection of lungs, which is caused due to delay in contacting health facilities. In the case of the Qatari who died here, he had come after four days of contracting the disease and his health was very poor. Swine flu death risk is .03 percent,” Dr Al Thani said.
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