WHO raps Bahrain schools delay
Manama, September 9, 2009
Bahrain's decision to delay the reopening of schools to ward off swine flu has been criticised by global experts.
But the country's overall strategy to combat the H1N1 virus was praised by the World Health Organisation.
Children aged six and under have been ordered to stay away from school until October 4.
Some schools also sent home pupils earlier this week after being urged to wait another seven days before starting the new term, to help create a buffer against any swine flu outbreak.
WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO) director Hussein Al Gezairy yesterday described the measures as 'unnecessary and not recommended'.
'We have to see that children less than five years old are protected because they are among the high-risk categories,' he said during a Press conference at the Health Ministry headquarters in Juffair.
Al Gezairy, who spoke to the media along with Health Minister Faisal Al Hamer, said if Bahrain used the same logic, it could be forced to close other places such as malls and public parks in the event of an outbreak.
'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.'
Al Gezairy said most schools in Bahrain had far fewer pupils per class anyway.
He said only global efforts would help stop the spread of the virus.
'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,' said Al Gezairy.
'Moreover, the production of the vaccine is limited and not all of the population can get it in one go.'
Al Gezairy said thankfully, swine flu could not be considered a 'seriously fatal disease' because mainly only people with other health complications had died.
'Of course, it is spreading but the number of cases in Bahrain, for example, has shown that it is not a (rampant) killer,' he said.
'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 of the human body but soon humans will get used to it.
The latest protocol we have recommended, and Bahrain has already implemented, is to report only the cases of serious illness and death,' he said.
'This is because most of the cases are mild.
'That is why anti-viral treatment (Tamiflu) is being given to every suspect.'
Al Gezairy said it was impossible to say how much of Bahrain's population could contract the virus.
Dr Al Hamer said Bahrain had initiated a process to import a million doses of the swine flu vaccine.
'Forty thousand will arrive early next month and the first target will be the high-risk categories of people,' he said.
'All imports will be done through a Health Ministry system and only from three WHO-approved manufacturers.'-TradeArabia News Service