Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1280, (28 January - 3 February 2016)
Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Issue 1280, (28 January - 3 February 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Not swine flu

Deaths from a viral infection are mounting but the Health Ministry says swine flu is not the killer, reports Reem Leila

Al-Ahram Weekly

In January, 18 people were reported to have died from swine flu (H1N1) in the governorates of North Sinai, Al-Beheira and Assiut, in addition to more than 145 infections. Six of the dead were from Al-Beheira, whose hospitals declared a state of emergency.

But as news spread of several viral deaths over the past few days in a number of governorates, the Health Ministry said no cases of swine flu had been detected. Khaled Megahed, the ministry’s official spokesman, said claims that the deaths were due to swine flu were inaccurate.

“There is no longer what is called the H1N1 virus. Since 2010 the World Health Organisation has defined the virus as seasonal influenza. It is not the pandemic of 2009,” Megahed said.

The virus, according to Megahed, is rather a seasonal H1N1 influenza — not the so-called swine flu — currently common locally, regionally and internationally. “The virus is responsive to Tamiflu which is easily available in the market,” Megahed said.

Megahed said those infected are responding to medical treatment and that most will soon be discharged from hospital. “The 18 who died had other health complications such as liver, kidney disease and cancer. Such patients usually have a low immunity system, and are vulnerable to any virus.”

Amr Qandil, head of the Health Ministry’s Preventive Medicine Department, urged people to avoid close contact with others who appear unwell. People including children must wash their hands with soap and water thoroughly and often, practice good health habits including getting adequate sleep, eating nutritious food and keeping physically active.

“For those who feel sick, they should seek immediate medical advice, stay at home and stay away from work, school or crowds, rest and take plenty of fluids, cover their mouth and nose with disposable masks or tissue, and wash their hands with soap and water, especially after sneezing or coughing. Inform people around you with the illness and avoid contact with them,” said Qandil.

Egypt’s current stockpile of Tamiflu exceeds five million bottles. “There are enough strategic supplies for all the public’s essential needs,” Qandil added.

Egypt has developed a vaccine to combat H1N1. A research team at the Egyptian National Research Centre (NRC) has developed a vaccine that it says is more effective in dealing with the strain of the virus found in Egypt.

“The vaccine has been available on the market since 2010. It was prepared from local strains of the virus which makes it more effective in Egypt than imported vaccines,” Qandil said.

In a previous statement, the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation, WHO and the World Organisation for Animal Health declared that H1N1 was not known to be transmissible to people through eating processed pork or other food products derived from pigs. Heat commonly used in cooking, 70 degrees Celsius for example, will make inactive any virus potentially present in raw meat products.

Health officials have denied there is a mass outbreak of the disease similar to that in 2009 when the virus first appeared in the country and was declared a pandemic. That year the government ordered the culling of all pigs in the country out of concern that the animal was carrying the virus.

In February 2014, swine flu resurfaced in Egypt. Then-minister of health Maha Rabat said at the time that 38 people had died and hundreds more were hospitalised.

There were 41 deaths from avian flu virus (H5N1) in 2015. The H5N1 virus first appeared in the country in 2006, with most cases detected in impoverished rural areas where poultry is raised. The 1,037 suspected infections discovered since November last year have tested negative for the H5N1.

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