No Swine flu risk in Dubai Says Ministry of Health

Dubai: Jamal Al Turki, technical director, preventive medicines, Ministry of Health (MoH), has said on Sunday thet “Currently there is no actual threat of swine flu to the UAE. We are monitoring the situation,”.

Al Turki said: “This particular type of flu can be transmitted by being close to pigs; so in this regard there is no real threat in the UAE. The disease is also not transmitted through the food chain.”

Meanwhile H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister, will chair tomorrow a high-level meeting to discuss the latest developments in regards to the swine flu, Health Minister Humaid Al Qattami announced today.

He said the Ministry of Health is maintaining contacts through a hot line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other countries which detected cases of swine flu to follow up the situation.

”We are closely monitoring latest developments in a number of infected countries including Mexico, US and Spain,”he added.

“We are also keeping a close surveillance on people coming from the infected part of the world based on the slightest flu like symptoms. There is a potential for this flu to turn into an epidemic because this particular virus changes its genetic composition. It can infect pigs but human-to-human transmission does not take place,” he added.

Meanwhile, Francisco Alonso, consul-general of Mexico in Dubai, said that his diplomatic mission is yet to receive enquiries about the outbreak or panic calls from the community. No enquiries had been received from visa applicants either, he said. “My government is constantly in touch with us on this problem. There is nothing to panic. I am glad to inform you that the situation is very much under control in Mexico.

“There has been no fall in the number of visa applicants that we receive each day. The diplomatic mission was opened last year and since then the number of Emiratis who apply for a visa has risen. Majority apply for business visas. The consulate receives three to five visa applicants per day,” he said.

On April 16, the consulate had issued a circular to the community updating them about necessary measures to be taken by the country (Mexico) in dealing with the outbreak.

There are an estimated 600 to 700 Mexicans residing in the UAE.

What is Swine Influenza?

Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type. Swine flu viruses cause high levels of illness and low death rates in pigs. Swine influenza viruses may circulate among swine throughout the year, but most outbreaks occur during the late fall and winter months similar to outbreaks in humans. The classical swine flu virus (an influenza type A H1N1 virus) was first isolated from a pig in 1930.

Can humans catch swine flu?

Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with swine flu have occurred. Most commonly, these cases occur in persons with direct exposure to pigs (e.g. children near pigs at a fair or workers in the swine industry). In addition, there have been documented cases of one person spreading swine flu to others. What are the symptoms of swine flu in humans? The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

How does swine flu spread?

Influenza viruses can be directly transmitted from pigs to people and from people to pigs. Human infection with flu viruses from pigs are most likely to occur when people are in close proximity to infected pigs, such as in pig barns and livestock exhibits housing pigs at fairs.

People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

The outbreak of swine flu in humans was first reported in Mexico and the United States and experts have warned about its pandemic potential as it has claimed over 68 lives and sickened over 1,000 others.

The alarming situation had forced World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Margaret Chan to convene a meeting of the Emergency Committee to assess the situation and advise her on appropriate responses. 

After reviewing available data on the current situation, committee members identified a number of gaps in knowledge about the clinical features, epidemiology, and virology of reported cases and the appropriate responses.

In a telephone news conference in Geneva, Chan said: “The situation is evolving quickly. The new disease is by definition poorly understood.”

Is there a vaccine for swine flu?

Vaccines are available to be given to pigs to prevent swine influenza. There is no vaccine to protect humans from swine flu. The seasonal influenza vaccine will likely help provide partial protection against swine H3N2, but not swine H1N1.