Qatar has put in place an early surveillance system to detect quickly enough any suspected case of influenza H1N1 (A) virus coming into the country from any affected countries.
Speaking to reporters, Dr Abdullatif al-Khal, the head of the National Programme on Communicable Diseases, said yesterday Qatar is prepared to tackle swine flu cases.
He said surveillance cameras had been installed at various entry points such as the airport, sea ports and borders.
The flu has created a worldwide panic after killing scores in Mexico and affecting hundreds of people in 39 other countries.
“So far some cases with fever or flu-like symptoms have been detected. We have conducted initial tests, which were positive. We have to send the results for confirmatory tests for H1N1 influenza by the World Health Organisation (WHO),” he said.
According to Dr al-Khal, results of some of the tests received from the WHO so far have been negative, while results of another batch were being awaited.
He said that to curtail the spread of the virus, WHO is working on seeds that can be used in producing suitable vaccines and hopefully by May end.
The seeds will be distributed to about 12 influenza vaccine manufacturing companies for production. “We hope that within the next six months, WHO will have the necessary expertise to produce the vaccine,” he said.
He reiterated that Qatar will continue to stockpile seasonal flu vaccines in order to meet the demand and reduce the rate of suspected cases found in the country.
Dr Abdulwahab al-Mosleh, the head of the Hamad General Hospital’s emergency department, said HMC was working in co-operation with of several ministries, armed forces and other relevant agencies to monitor the virus.
“We have a three-phase national plan, which is currently at its inter-pandemic or alert stage and we have set up a number of screening stations across the country where people having flu-like symptoms can go for physical,” he said.
Dr Al-Mosleh explained that emergency services and urgent care centres have been opened in several centres. The centres include HGH emergency department, Al Khor Hospital, Al Sadd emergency department, Al Wakra and Gharaffa care centres, as well as three primary healthcare centres – West Bay, Old Airport and Abubakar Al Sadeeq health centres.
“These centres are ready to see patients having flu-like illness, those who just arrived from any of the 40 affected countries for rapid examination and testing,” he said.
The doctor said that at the moment, some suspected cases are being kept in a designated section at Rumailah Hospital for a day or two before the arrival of the confirmatory tests. “We have set aside up to 1,000 rooms at Medical City and a building behind HGH in preparation for receiving cases in case of pandemic,” he said.
Hotlines for retrieving swine flu information by the public have also been opened. The numbers are 4311342 or 4430438 while a website hmc.orq.qa/H1N1 has been launched to provide healthcare providers with information on standard procedure to follow in terms of assessment and treatment of suspected cases.
Another website for the use of the general public on influenza H1N1 is being planned, he said.
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