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Delaying school opening due to flu threat not viable option.

Byline: Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

Manama: Delaying the opening of schools as a measure to contain the spread of the swine flu is not a viable option and is both unnecessary and not recommended, a health expert has said.

"If we apply the same logic that has driven the decision to postpone classes, then we should also take action regarding public places such as malls and parks in the event of an outbreak," Hussain Al Gezairy World Health Organisation Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO) director, said in Manama.

"What we could do is to try and reduce the number of students in a classroom and that too, where these exceed 40 per class. That way, there will be a considerably less chance of the virus spreading."

Bahrain's education ministry had postponed the reopening of nurseries, kindergartens and schools for students with special needs to October 4. The academic year at the University of Bahrain was also delayed after pressure from students' groups and teachers and the Bahrain Training Institute imposed a seven-day buffer against any outbreak of the flu.

Government schools have been re-scheduled to attend classes on September 27. Education officials said that they would put off the classes further if the health ministry recommends it.

However, private school students started their new academic year on Sunday, after a one-week delay that was resisted by many school administrations.

No swine flu cases were reported among a string of precautionary measures to ward off the virus.

Al Gezairy urged officials and people not to panic over swine flu.

"Panic has no place in the management of the disease, so we have to be patient. This is a new disease to the immune system but soon humans will get used to it," he said.

The health expert said that mainly people with other health complications have died.

"Of course, it is spreading but the number of cases in Bahrain, for example, has shown that it is not a killer," he said.

"Countries are in the process of procuring a vaccine that has been developed to combat the disease, but no one is still sure how many doses of the vaccine will be effective," he said.

Dr. Najib Al Hamer, the health minister, said that his ministry has conducted 940 A(H1N1) tests, and that only 29 per cent of the cases were positive.

Bahrain has confirmed three swine flu deaths, a 30-year-old Filipina, Jane Tamad Diale, a 24-year-old Bahraini man, Mousa Jassem Taitoon, and a 51-year-old Bangladeshi, Ahmad Abdul Rashid.

Taitoon's death caused a stir amid charges that a private hospital initially failed to diagnose his case, making it difficult for the hospital where he was transferred later to save him.

Al Hamer on Tuesday warned clinics and private hospitals that they could have their licences revoked in they failed to abide by the health ministry protocol on tackling swine flu virus. Lawmaker Adel Al Assoomi has called for an emergency session of the parliament to discuss the status of swine flu in Bahrain and the latest measures taken by the health and education ministries to ward off the virus.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday that more than 2,800 people had died from the A(H1N1) virus worldwide. The virus, which originated in the Americas, has been detected in nearly every country in the world.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Sep 10, 2009
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