Swine flu’s second wave may be coming
The WHO has warned that with autumn and winter approaching, the outbreak of the H1N1 virus may get worse.
August 24, 2009 10:04 by Aarti Nagraj
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that there may be a second wave of the swine flu pandemic because of the approaching cooler season when the flu virus usually thrives. “The WHO is still mobilized and worried,” spokesman Gregory Hartl told AFP.
“We cannot say for certain whether the worst is over or the worst is yet to come,” WHO director general Margaret Chan warned on Friday. “We need to be prepared for whatever surprises this capricious new virus delivers next,” she said.
Chan added that there had been second and third waves in previous pandemics.
According to the WHO, around 1,799 people have died of the virus, and it has spread into 177 countries since it was first discovered in Mexico.
Hartl said it was necessary to be prepared between October and November. “Everyone must be ready,” he said. “It is already amongst us, as we saw this summer.”
Earlier this month, GCC health ministers held a meeting in Kuwait to create a region-wide strategy to deal with the spread of the virus. The ministers, who are working on a unified plan to prevent the spread of the virus when schools reopen in September, urged people to avoid crowds during Ramadan.
In Abu Dhabi however, authorities have said that students who return from a vacation abroad just before the school reopens will have to stay at home for a week before they can join.
“It is part of a policy to prevent swine flu in schools. No child will be allowed to attend school just after coming back from abroad,” Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, director general of Abu Dhabi Education Council told Gulf News.
He said that the school management would be responsible for implementing this decision. “We will send the official communiqué soon to the schools and other authorities in this regard,” Al Khaili said.
In Saudi, swine flu fears are causing a drop in the number of people undertaking Umrah and Haj pilgrimages, reports the Saudi Gazette. Companies organizing these services have seen a 20 percent fall in demand for services in Ramadan compared to last year.
Saad al-Qurashi, the chairman of the National Haj & Umrah Committee, told Arab News that a high-level panel would be set up to deal with the virus during the Umrah and Haj seasons.
The panel will distribute surgical masks to pilgrims and hold specialized workshops to inform and educate people about the symptoms of the flu and the measures to be taken.