Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Saudi Arabia Prepares for New Wave of Swine Flu | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Dammam, Asharq Al-Awsat- Saudi Arabia announced this week that the number of confirmed cases of swine flu in the country had hit the two thousand mark. Saudi Arabia has suffered only 14 deaths from swine flu, and the disease rate has a 95 percent recovery rate in the country.

Dr. Khalid Marglani, the official spokesman for the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health also revealed that the Health Ministry was preparing to face a new wave of the disease which would coincide with the end of summer. This also comes with new challenges facing the national campaign warning against swine flu, such as the end of the tourist season for Saudi Arabians, and their return from abroad en masse in order to spend Ramadan in Saudi Arabia. As well as the beginning of the Umrah season during the holy month of Ramadan.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Dr. Marglani revealed that Saudi Arabia – along with many other countries – will witness a new wave in the outbreak of swine flu cases as a result of the climactic changes expected to be seen at the end of the summer season, and the beginning of autumn. According to meteorological experts, these changes include a drop in temperature and a change in the humidity level.

Dr. Marglani said that the Ministry of Health was preparing for this new wave of outbreaks by applying new epidemiological requirements, and medical procedures for detecting and treating cases of swine flu. This is just one of a series of measures applied by the national swine flu campaign. Marglani also stressed that the Ministry of Health is committed to applying the World Health Organization guidelines that are being implemented throughout the US and Europe, and which have helped in the detection and treatment of swine flu cases. In addition to this, Marglani said that the Ministry was working to educate the public on methods of avoiding infection, and how to deal with the disease should it be detected.

According to meteorologist Dr. Ali al-Shukri, the climactic changes that will take place at the end of the end of the summer season will result in cooler temperatures throughout all regions of Saudi Arabia, along with a change in wind direction which brings with it the possibility of rain. He added that the summer season will [officially] end on 23 September.

According to medical sources, these climate changes that typically accompany the change in season enhance the spread of all viral diseases, including swine flu. These sources also revealed that the impact that the onset of the autumn season will have on these diseases will be relatively small when compared to the impact that winter will have.

In addition to this, the end of the Saudi tourist season and the return of many Saudi tourists from abroad in order to spend the month of Ramadan in the country presents another challenge, and there are new fears that the return of these tourists en masse will contribute to the spread of the disease in a similar manner to the early spread of the disease.

According to statistics obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat from a number of travel agencies, the start of the holy month of Ramadan represents the end of the tourist season for Saudi tourists this year, and that in some travel agencies the number of return bookings this week is as high as 96 percent.

Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Khalid Marglani added that the precautions taken by the Ministry and its implementation of the World Health Organization guidelines in the country’s airports and ports will ensure success in detecting and quickly treating swine flu cases. He added that the thermal camera is just one of the tools used in the detection process, but that ultimately there is no completely effective and reliable solution with regards to swine flu detection.

Dr. Marglani also said that the Health Ministry was preparing for the onset of the Umrah season which will take place during Ramadan by circulating health advice, including recommendations against children and the elderly traveling to Saudi Arabia [in order to perform Umrah] as they have a higher potential of being stuck by the disease. Marglani added that the Ministry had also applied a set of recommendations to reduce the spread of the disease in crowded areas.

Marglani also stressed that the number of swine flu cases in Saudi Arabia, and the number of dead as a result of this disease are firmly within the global average, and the majority of cases recover without requests for medical care.

The Saudi Health Ministry’s Executive Director of Preventative Medicine and Infection Control, Dr. Ziad Bin Ahmed Mamish also established a workshop on Tuesday in Jeddah to discuss swine flu. This workshop was also attended by the Jeddah General Directorate of Health Affairs and the Medical Committee of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce; parties discussed recent developments of the swine flu epidemic, and infection control procedures in health facilities across the country.

Doctors treating the swine flu disease in Riyadh participated in this workshop, along with the heads of emergency and infection control medical departments of both public and private hospitals in Riyadh. The aim of this workshop was to raise awareness of swine flu and explain procedures for detecting and treating the disease, as well as communicate and coordinate with diagnostic specialists.

The second session of the workshop which was chaired by the Ministry of Health’s Executive Director of the Department of Infectious Diseases, Dr. Raafat Hakim. The workshop reviewed infection control procedures in health facilities and was attended by Dr. Hanan al-Balghi of the Middle East branch of the World Health Organization, and King Faisal Hospital’s, Dr. Abdullah al-Hugail.