The virus spreads
As more cases of the flu are reported in Mexico, the United States and New Zealand, the UAE claims it is ready to take action against the spread of the swine flu virus.
April 26, 2009 1:15 by Dana El Baltaji
The UAE government is “ready” to take action to prevent the spread of the swine flu in the nation once the World Health Organization (WHO) sounds the alarm, said Ministry of Health Director-General Ali Shakar.
“We have not received anything official via WHO,” Shakar said. “We will have everything ready, prepared and on standby once WHO sends notice.”
Salem bin Mesmar, the assistant director-general for the Health, Safety and Environment Control Sector at Dubai Municipality and chairman of the Avian Influenza Emergency Committee, which was responsible for curbing the spread of the avian, or ‘bird’ flu, has said the committee is ready to cope with the virus on a local level, reports Khaleej Times.
“At a federal level, there would be coordination of the municipalities, but if it is necessary, we can use these representatives – police, custom, free zone, airports,” he said.
“But so far, so good.”
More than 1,300 people in Mexico with flu-like symptoms have been admitted to hospitals.
The swine flu, which has already killed at least 68 people in Mexico alone, may have already spread to the United States and New Zealand, reports CNN. The number of confirmed reports of swine flu infections in the United States has hit 11.
Twenty-five individuals in New Zealand, including 22 students and three teachers at Auckland’s Rangitoto College, are suspected of carrying the virus after returning from a three-week-long language trip to Mexico, via Los Angeles on Saturday.
Ten of the 25 have tested positive to influenza A, New Zealand’s health minister Tony Rynall confirmed on Sunday. The H1N1 swine flu is a subset of influenza A.
The WHO released a statement on Saturday determining that “the current events constitute a public health emergency of international concern.”
The H1N1 strain of the flu is typically associated with pigs, hence the name swine flu. However, when the flu spreads to humans, it can mutate continuously, making it a difficult virus to treat.
Some of the symptoms of the flu include high fever, tiredness, nausea, runny nose, sore throat, vomiting and diarrhea, said the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the US.
According to the WHO, the world is closer to an influenza pandemic today than it has been since 1968, when the last pandemic occurred. The organization has determined that the current phase of alert in the WHO global influenza preparedness plan is three out of six.
“The world is presently in phase 3: a new influenza virus subtype is causing disease in humans, but is not yet spreading efficiently and sustainably among humans,” the WHO said.
“Changes from one phase to another are triggered by several factors, which include the epidemiological [behavior] of the disease and the characteristics of circulating viruses.”
There have been no cases of the swine flu virus reported in the Middle East to date.