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1Mn in Oman expected to get swine flu.

Byline: Rahul Das

One million people in Oman could be infected with swine flu if the viral pandemic continues to spread at its current rate, Ministry of Health officials have said.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 30 to 50 per cent of worldAAEs population may get infected by the virus. It is impossible to determine the exact number but officials believe 30 per cent of OmanAAEs population could be infec-ted with the H1N1 virus in the next couple of years.

Though the MoH had recorded 54 swine flu cases as on July 27 (95 on August 2), H E Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Saidi, Under-secretary at the Ministry of Health (MoH), said in a press conference that the number reported is less than expected. AoStopping the virus is now impossible; we can only minimise the number by taking adequate precautions. We are desperate to contain the spread and educate the population on preventive measures.Ao

Last week the WHO said that up to two billion people could be infected by swine flu, and that a pandemic typically lasts two years.

According to Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment, the number is not a prediction. AoIf you look at past pandemics, it would be a reasonable estimate to say perhaps a third of the worldAAEs population would get infected with this virus.Ao

On the preventive measures being taken in the country against H1N1, H E Saidi said, AoThe most important among these is that pilgrims should take the seasonal flu vaccine two weeks prior to Haj.Ao Anyone older than 65 or younger than 12, and those with chronic and advanced diseases, will not be allowed to go. AoThey wonAAEt be allowed to enter Saudi Arabia without a certificate stating they are fit to travel. Those who donAAEt have a certificate will be turned back.Ao

H E Saidi urged those who have performed Haj before to avoid travelling this year. AoEven if they are fit and healthy, I think they shouldnAAEt go to Haj this year because there is no reason to expose themselves to a risk they can do without.Ao

However, he insisted that there is no reason to panic. AoThe confirmed cases in the country have been managed well and are being monitored by ministry officials. Most of the cases Au Omanis and expats Au recorded were imported into the country, a majority from Thailand. Luckily, the cases reported here have been of mild to moderate severity. Only one woman needed hospitalisation; all others were treated at home.Ao

The Omani woman who needed hospitalisation is now stable while the others are recovering. H E Saidi asked those infected to stay at home during the period of treatment. He also clarified that Oman has a good stock of Tamiflu, adding, AoIf there is a shortage, we will import from neighbouring countries.Ao

But he urged people not to purchase Tamiflu without a prescription. AoWhile there is no scientific basis to prove that you wonAAEt be affected by the virus if you take the drug, you can, in fact, face problems of antibiotic resistance if you misuse Tamiflu. It is available across Oman, but given only if prescribed.Ao

Asked if any special measures were in place for the Khareef festival in Salalah, H E Saidi said, AoThough the virus spreads faster in cooler climes like Salalah, there have been few cases there. If the virus spreads, we have enough medicines to control a situation.Ao

The MoH has an agreement with Oman Air to transport nasal and throat swabs from Salalah to the Central Health Laboratory in Darsait. Two cases have been reported from Salalah to date.

Though there is currently no vaccination against H1N1, H E Saidi expects one by the end of the year. AoHowever, if it becomes available before the Haj season starts, it will become mandatory for pilgrims to be vaccinated before they leave the country.Ao

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Publication:The Week (Muscat, Oman)
Date:Aug 17, 2009
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