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Infectious disease control ‘urgent need for GCC’

Dubai, December 4, 2013

Communicable diseases remain a concern to the GCC states, emphasising the urgent need for effective surveillance and control in the region, said a top official.

“The spread of communicable disease among expatriate workers can be fatal and the consequences are wide ranging,” explained Dr Wasif Muhammad Alam, director, Public Health & Safety, Dubai Health Authority (DHA), ahead of the Arab Health Exhibition & Congress running on January 27 and 28 at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre.

“Factors that contribute to the spread of infectious diseases among expatriate workers, specifically migrant construction workers, include poor living conditions in many migrant worker camps as well as lack of awareness among employers and employees of the health impact of these diseases.”

Dr Alam and Dr Rasha Salama, senior specialist, Public Health, Dubai Health Authority (DHA) will be discussing the current climate of infectious diseases in the UAE and GCC at the new Emerging Diseases of Public Health: Strategies and Interventions Conference at Arab Health.

The GCC countries receive around two million working expatriates annually and 25 per cent of these expatriates suffer from health issues, specifically infectious diseases. The most prevalent infectious diseases among expatriate workers are influenza, chicken pox, hepatitis, TB, malaria, sexually transmitted diseases, food borne disease, fecal-oral transmission diseases, and others.

The GCC countries have been successfully implementing labour expatriate medical testing programmes in worker's home countries in the hope that the spread of these critical infectious diseases could be minimized, said Dr Alam.

These expat workers get tested again once they enter the country and screened again for the working visa renewal, he added.

“Despite the extensive screening efforts to tackle the problem of infectious disease transmission among expatriate employees, a key factor remains health awareness and health promotion which plays a vital role in educating employers and employees about the risks of contracting and spreading these diseases, especially for the diseases that are not currently screened in the region, such as chicken pox, hand to mouth diseases, food and water borne diseases that immigrant workers may carry,” said Dr Alam.

Standards of healthcare are generally high in the Emirate of Dubai, reflecting high levels of public health over the last decades. However, communicable diseases still stand as a concern to the Emirate and plans are still on-going to control, eliminate and/or eradicate such diseases.

“The increase in prevalence of many infectious diseases together with the on-going evolution of viral and microbial variants, and selection for drug resistance, suggests that infections will continue to emerge, and probably increase,” said Dr Salama.

“This emphasises the urgent need for effective surveillance and control in the region. Early warning of emerging and re-emerging infections depends on our ability to identify unusual patterns and occurrences as early as possible. Information exchange and collaboration with GCC countries is, therefore, essential.” – TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Arab Health | Infectious Diseases |

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