H1N1 claims 6 lives in UAE

Abu Dhabi: Ministry of Health has officially confirmed Six H1N1 deaths in UAE in a meeting on Tuesday between the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the media.

Even though health officials did not want to reveal the exact number of H1N1 cases across the UAE, Dr Hanif Hassan, Minister of Health, confirmed that six people have died from the virus, explaining that each of these cases either had a medical history or were very young or old.

“The last two cases who died from H1N1 included a 75-year-old man who had diabetes, and was in the intensive care unit for quite some time and an 8-month-old child. Previous deaths were among a pregnant woman and another person who suffered from a heart condition.

“People less than five years old or above 65, pregnant women and those with underlying conditions stand a higher risk than others,” Hassan said. “We are transparent about the numbers but cannot share details with the media due to patients confidentiality and out of respect for deceased and their families.”

The MoH in accordance with regulations set by the World health Organisation will be purchasing the vaccine in order of priority to approximately 10 to 15 per cent of the UAE population.

No Need to panic

The health minister stressed that the H1N1 virus is weak. “The danger lies in how fast the virus spreads on a global level. That’s why the media along with all concerned authorities across the UAE need to work hand in hand to help increase awareness regarding H1N1 prevention.”

In comparison to Avian flu, where the death rate goes up from 40 to 50 per cent, the H1N1 death rate across the world is moderately low, stressed the minister.

“There is an over reaction, and there’s no need to panic. My message to the public is to simply cool down. Also people should not depend on the health ministry as much as they do, there’s also the World Health Organization website that offers up to date information on H1N1. The public should continuously educate themselves regarding the condition, and that will help them worry less,” concluded Shakar.

During the meeting a senior journalist said that due to lack of information offered to reporters regarding H1N1 across the UAE, rumours started to develop.

“For instance we were not sure if the Filipino School in Sharjah had one or 80 swine flu cases because the concerned authority and/or official did not provide us with the correct information. Transparency with full details, including statistics is vital in our community for both parties, the media and the Ministry of Health.”

Another senior journalist also discussed lack of transparency him and his colleagues face while trying to gather information from the Ministry of Health and the National Committee for Combating Swine Flu.

“As a result, most if not all reporters are not able to reach correct information from the required official and/or source; how do you expect us to communicate accurately if you do not answer our queries,” he asked.

In response, the health minister, Hanif Hassan Ali agreed that lack of information and transparency between the two parties does result in rumours.

“There was only one H1N1 case in the Filipino School, and that isn’t a rumour. We are currently in the process of designating a spokesperson for the media. This will help reduce miscommunication between the ministry, the National Committee for Combating Swine flu and the media.