Egypt combats spread of influenza

Egyptian doctors prepare to administer a flu vaccine during the 2009 outbreak of pandemic H1N1 influenza virus worldwide. [Said Khatib/AFP]

Egyptian doctors prepare to administer a flu vaccine during the 2009 outbreak of pandemic H1N1 influenza virus worldwide. [Said Khatib/AFP]

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Nearly 320 Egyptians have been diagnosed with the H1N1 flu virus since December, 38 of whom died after being infected, Egypt's Ministry of Health announced this week.

Many of the cases of H1N1 infection emerged in Egypt after the dramatic drop in temperature -- down to zero degrees Celsius in some areas -- which is unusual in Egypt, said Dr. Ali al-Zaraani, respiratory disease specialist at Qasr al-Aini Hospital in Cairo and member of the emergency committee formed by the Egyptian Health Ministry to follow up on mutations of the flu virus.

The high number of deaths and chronic cases are the result of the virus overpowering the immune systems of people who already suffer from other health problems, he told Al-Shorfa.

The virus "is a type of seasonal flu virus that flares up this time of year, and is active in many parts of the world, including Egypt", he said.

"The Ministry of Health is monitoring and following up on the flu in 450 hospitals across Egypt and in its laboratories in order to trace the path of the flu, ensure it does not mutate and that the appropriate medicine, antibiotics and vaccines are being used to fight it," he said.

The virus has not yet mutated, and "is very similar to the one that surfaced last year and the year before", al-Zaraani said.

The number of infections categorised as advanced -- which include respiratory and pulmonary infections -- is almost identical to the number of such cases diagnosed last year, he added.

The ministry has distributed large quantities of vaccines to deal with these cases, equipped all hospitals with quarantine rooms, and vaccinated all specialised doctors, nursing and quarantine staff, al-Zaraani said.

Preventative measures

Respiratory infections specialist Dr. Sayyed Yassin attributed the outbreak of chronic infections this year in Egypt to climate changes and unprecedentedly low temperatures.

Flu symptoms include high temperatures that persist above 38 degrees Celsius, acute respiratory infections, and pneumonia accompanied by muscle and body pain and headaches, he said.

The most vulnerable groups include children younger than seven years of age, adults older than 60 years of age, as well as pregnant women and individuals suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes and kidney disease, Yassin said.

"Although it has kept the spread of the virus in check, the Egyptian Ministry of Health lacks a preventive medicine system to activate in case of an outbreak of virus or an epidemic of pneumonia for example or acute viral hepatitis," he said.

Hospital administrators in the provinces have made considerable efforts to reduce fatalities during this year's flu season, he said, and citizens are taking their own preventative measures to avoid contracting the virus.

Government employee Amer Nabil said he had his entire family vaccinated against the flu this year.

"I also emphasise cleanliness outside the home, especially at school to my children, and my wife and I make the children eat fresh vegetables and fruit, especially oranges for their Vitamin C, which is essential in winter," he told Al-Shorfa.

The Ministry of Education's decision this year to postpone the children's return to school until January 22nd pleased parents who were fearful their children would contract the flu virus, he said.

In 2009, the pandemic H1N1 virus killed hundreds of Egyptians and thousands worldwide.

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    غسان المصرى

    2014-2-26

    Indeed, Egypt is plagued with the swine flu, and we verified this because we heard that they postponed the schools. Anyway, Egypt will certainly be able to overcome this difficult trial, God willing. However, we ask all people to be patient and to do all what is necessary to avoid the spread of this disease.

  • ماجد وليد

    2014-2-26

    May God have mercy upon this nation, whose ignorance made the other nations mock. Does the person who made the statements regarding the deaths and said that all of them were because of the swine flu and bird flue believe that all people in the world are stupid or what? O God! Have mercy upon us. First, bird flu cannot live in such hot climates, especially Egypt during the summer. Why did it disappear from the whole world except Egypt? O people, fear God and allow the poor to raise birds to manage to live. Who will benefit when all people eat frozen chickens that come from unknown sources? Do not you believe that the disaster of the poisonous Vietnamese fish is enough? Please, have mercy upon those on earth, so that God have mercy upon you.

  • مهند المطيرى

    2014-2-25

    So far, four doctors working in ICU have died of the H1N1 viral infection which is known as swine flu. Several people die of this disease every day. But the Health Ministry has done nothing about it. The Minister of the revolutionary leader will travel to Europe next Thursday for the promotion of tourism in Egypt. How far apart the two are!

  • مزيد محمد

    2014-2-25

    I am not sure that the Egyptians citizens will find water, because Ethiopia knows well that Egypt is going to develop Halayeb and Shalatin, which needs additional water in these areas. The Sudanese president was on a visit yesterday to Ethiopia and discussed the case with the Ethiopian prime minister. Both parties agreed to grant Egypt an additional share of water that reaches 20 billion cubic meters. Sudan agreed to grant Egypt 5 billion cubic meters and Ethiopia would grant Egypt 15 billion cubic meters. Both parties agreed to search for other sources of funds from the brothers in Qatar, and Turkey to go ahead with the Jonglei Canal in order to increase Egypt’s share of the water of the Nile.

  • تيسير المنفلوطى

    2014-2-24

    The major risks come from the flu, especially if it was the swine flu. There are many children vulnerable to the swine flu in Egypt; therefore, it’s necessary to make available the adequate prevention measures that can stop the spread of this disease. The best decision taken by the government was delaying the start of the school days because the children are the most vulnerable group to this disease. I wish from the Health Ministry to carry out its role of providing the vaccines required to prevent the spread of this disease.

  • كارولين مجيد

    2014-2-24

    The flu definitely happens every year and threatens all the Arab countries seriously. This is not just the usual flu. In other words, the flu may be of different types, for example the birds flu or the swine flu. Therefore the Egyptian Health Ministry should take the necessary provisions and eliminate the dangers of this disease, because this disease threatens the health of the Egyptian compatriots; especially the Egyptian children who are the first victims exposed to terrorist actions. Therefore these threats should be stopped very quickly, because if this disease spread in Egypt so quickly and no preventive provisions are taken by people, a real danger may threaten their lives.

  • جلال الدين أنيس

    2014-2-23

    The outbreak of flu in Egypt is that of the bird flu which mutated and became the swine flu. The piles of garbage in the streets of Egypt and the negligence of the competent authorities resulted in the aggravation of the disease as well as the mutation of the virus. The disease is spreading rapidly throughout Egypt in the absence of the medical care. Unfortunately, the Government hospitals in Egypt have failed to a large degree. They are not sterilized at all. I think that there are a lot of diseases that proliferate easily in hospitals because of the negligence of the health authorities in Egypt. I would advise the Egyptians to consult a private doctor, rather than public hospitals, as soon as they feel any symptoms of any disease. The public hospitals are rather harmful. Unfortunately, the health sector in our country is as poor as that.

  • عبد الله راجح

    2014-2-23

    What are the precautions of the Egyptian Ministry of Health? As we can see, Egypt is infested by various diseases. Still worse, the diseases mutate in Egypt to take multiple forms. You know why? It is because the environment in this country is contaminated. Even the Nile water that we drink is contaminated. The foods are polluted with chemicals. For this reason, I would attribute the disease to the polluted environment. In other words, the contaminated environment has caused a variety of diseases in Egypt. Nevertheless, the authorities are supposed to hold campaigns to raise the awareness of the people in order to eradicate those diseases. It is wintertime. Thus, the influenza is proliferating dramatically throughout the country. The flu is a contagious disease. Thus, the infection could be spread through the air. We are in desperate need for the advice of the Ministry of Health to avoid the affected places. Besides, we should consult a doctor as soon as we feel the flu in order to be safe.

  • محمد الحربى

    2014-2-23

    The health sector in Egypt is rather alarming and we need good sterilization through disinfecting glazed surfaces with disinfectant and avoiding the touching of unhealthy stuff. Therefore, the Ministry of Health has of course stuck guidelines in overcrowded places and provided masks for doctors because cases of infection appeared among doctors during the previous period. Thus, to avoid being infected, some conditions must be met. First, we have to use disinfectants frequently and always use soap and water to wash hands thoroughly before and after eating in particular. Of course, washing vegetables and the other conditions of hygiene are the best way to prevent the spread of this disease and fight it.

  • عبود شريف

    2014-2-21

    Currently we can see the spread of the swine flu which is curable as well, but unfortunately Egypt has fallen behind the other countries by about one million years in regard to science. We only like to speak about the government but we do not seek any solutions. The entire world can cure swine flu, but unfortunately, we are the only country in which this disease has settled in. We should study. We should learn and make progress. We should find a cure for every disease, because our country is the most beautiful country in the world.

  • أنور جلال

    2014-2-21

    I am a veterinarian and my work is in veterinary vaccines. Of course, we have the virus here, but has Egypt become the flu capital of the world? You have to see what the swine flu can do to the world and how it moves among humans, too, so that you can spare Egypt of your trouble.