AMMAN — Despite preventive measures taken by health officials in the Middle East to limit the spread of swine flu in the Arab world, the epidemic is causing increasing alarm. A number of recent reports indicate that more people in Lebanon, Yemen, Qatar and Jordan have contracted the illness.
Health officials in Qatar announced June 15 they have discovered the country's first cases of the disease, a two-year-old child who arrived from Austria on June 13 and a two-and-a-half-year-old U.S. child who arrived from Bangladesh.
Yemeni Health Minister Abd Al-Karim Rasaa informed reporters that a Yemeni student returning from the U.S. was infected with the H1N1 virus. The student is the first official case of swine flu in Yemen.
The Jordanian Health Ministry has also declared a state of preparedness as two young girls who had recently arrived from the U.S. were confirmed as being infected with the H1N1 virus.
Jordan’s Health Minister Nayef Al-Fayez said, "The two girls were diagnosed in private hospitals June 15 and immediately transferred to Prince Hamzah Hospital. Their families are currently under medical observation by ministry doctors."
As of mid-June, a total of 36,000 cases of H1N1 flu have been diagnosed in 76 countries throughout the world and the virus had taken the lives of 163 people. Those numbers are growing daily. The Middle East has remained largely free of the illness, but the recent increase in diagnosed cases has resulted in a state of high alert among health officials.
Although the numbers are unconfirmed, most news agencies indicate that the number of cases of swine flu in the Middle East is close to 90, but no deaths have been documented thus far. In all, cases of swine flu have been recorded in Egypt, Lebanon, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Kuwait.