Qatar has made all preparations to face swine flu that is spreading fast throughout the world. All necessary steps from detecting the disease to handling it in case of an epidemic are in place, according to experts. The rapid spread of the disease has prompted the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the first time to declare a ‘Phase 5’ outbreak, the second highest on its threat scale, indicating a pandemic could be imminent.
“We are fully ready and prepared to fend off and address the disease if it occurs in Qatar,” said Dr Sheikh Mohammad bin Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani, Director of the Public Health Department, Ministry of Health. “We have charted out the methods to handle any case and the health sector here has been already mobilised to take action. Qatar is a pioneer in handling these kinds of situations and this has been proved by the way we have handled previous outbreak threats. There is a standby plan which will be put into action in case of a major pandemic,” he said.
WHO had recommended all countries to keep a stock of medication necessary for at least 10 percent of the population during the avian flu threat and the same medicine can be used for the current flu. “We have sufficient medication and consumables amassed for 20 percent of the population in case of need. We are acquiring for another 10 percent so we will have medication for 30 percent of the population which will be three times the recommended stock. There is anti-viral medication which can reduce the impact of the disease by about 70 percent,” Dr Hanan Al Kuwari, Managing Director, Hamad Medical Corporation, told The Peninsula.
Health workers are in full swing at all ports of entry, screening passengers into Qatar and if necessary take action to treat and isolate them. “We have coordinated with all the relevant authorities to ensure that Qatar is fully prepared to face the flu. Any suspicious case will be placed in home isolation and if hospital admission is required, we have already allocated special admission units in HMC. In case of pandemic or if we have positive cases, our plan is to shift the entire Rumailah Hospital as an isolation for patients who need admission. The non-sick patients will be shifted to one of the three tower-hospitals in Hamad Medical City. Every thing is ready and will be mobilised if needed,” she said.
Thermal cameras will be fitted in all entry and exit points in Qatar in three days. “Any influenza cases detected through the temperature sensitive device will be sent to local laboratories to ascertain if it is H1N1 flu. If the results are negative, they will be given normal medicines. If suspicious case comes, further examinations will be done at accredited laboratories and the person will be treated in the isolation centres. We have four emergency health centres besides HMC and Al Saad Paediatric Emergency to provide medicine and check the disease - Abu Baker Siddique health centre, Al Dafna, Al Garrafa and Airport health centres,” said Dr Abdulwahab Al Musleh, Chairman of Emergency Department, HMC.
The antiviral medication will be available only through health centres as indiscriminate use of the medicine can make the virus more immune to medicine. The health officials in Qatar will be meeting shortly to discuss all the aspects of combating the virus and guidelines will be sent to all the healthcare facilities including private centres.
“The disease has no boundaries,” said Dr Tawfiq Khojah, Director General, GCC Health Ministers’ Executive Council.
“The GCC countries will be together in the fight against the disease and will contribute to the researches. This has been evident in the support given for many researches on AIDS and malaria. The GCC nations are vulnerable and at high risk to the swine flu as there is a big floating population and huge transit passengers at its ports. All the efforts here will be in par with the WHO strategy,” he said at a media briefing yesterday.
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