With the number of suspected H1N1 cases in the country rising steadily, the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) is gearing up to meet a possible second wave of the disease, which is expected in the weeks to come.
A senior SCH official said yesterday that several suspected H1N1 cases were being reported from schools daily resulting in temporary suspension of classes.
“Several countries in the northern hemisphere have been witnessing a second wave of the disease with the onset of winter. We have stepped up the precautionary measures to meet a possible rise in flu cases in the country in the coming weeks,” Dr Husam Rezea, Head of the Communicable Diseases Control and Vaccination Section (SDC) at SCH told The Peninsula yesterday.
SCH jointly with the Supreme Education Council has launched a strategic plan focusing schools to prevent an outbreak of the disease among the students.
“Several suspected cases have been reported from schools almost daily. At least two to three classes have been suspended every week as a precaution against a further spread of the disease,” said Rezea.
He said most of the suspected cases had been reported among children who were not vaccinated against seasonal flu. “This is a good indication since the vaccination has helped in identifying the cases more easily,” said Rezea.
A class is suspended – normally for one week – if at least three suspected cases are reported from that class. “If a student is admitted to the hospital or a primary health centre with flu like symptoms and is prescribed Tamiflu, it will be considered a suspected case. We have stopped conducting confirmatory tests for practical reasons. The student will be given mandatory sick leave for one week. If three such cases are reported from the same class, our team will visit the school to evaluate the situation. The school will then be asked to suspend that class for one week initially,” explained Rezea.
All the schools had been asked to appoint a staff member to liaise with the SCH in H1N1 related issues. This person is responsible for keeping a track of the flu cases in the school and report to the SDC. “If a student is absent from the class for several days continuously, the liaison officer should investigate that case. There could be many factors, other than flu that forces a student to abstain from the class. So it is very important to find out the actual reason to identify the flu cases,” said Rezea. Once a suspected case is identified – whether among the staff or students – the affected should not be allowed to attend the class for a minimum one week.
“Some parents would send their children to the school as soon they recover from the illness, without waiting to complete the one week period. Such cases can be detected by checking the leave certificate issued by the doctor,” said Rezea.
“The situation in the schools is under control, despite the fact that the flu cases are on the rise. We have been encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated against seasonal flu. The vaccine is now available in the primary health centers for those who missed it in the schools,” said Rezea.
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