The Ministry of Health announced in a press conference yesterday that a total of 218 cases of swine flu (H1N1) were reported during the second week of December, and that a total of 533 cases were reported between the months of October and December. These figures include 30 fatalities, 28 of which were members of what is considered a high risk group. During the same period in 2009, the ministry reported 10,599 cases, with 134 fatalities.
The most recent H1N1-related death was that of 45-year-old Wagih Adli Mechael from Al-Gharbeiya governorate, who had suffered from a chronic chest disease. This case was preceded by the death of a 24-year-old Ali She'sha from Daqahliya governorate.
Abdel Rahman Shahin, an official spokesman for the Ministry of Heath, told Ahram Online on Monday that clinical studies have proven that the spread of the virus in Egypt is within the normal rate of the seasonal flu. The number of those infected during the second week of December of last year was 2,685. “This means there is a sharp decline in the number of infected cases when compared to this year's figures,” said Shahin.
Prior to this flu season, the last case of H1N1 was reported during the summer, on 26 June, 2010. None of the ministry’s hospitals had reported any swine flu cases in the three months that followed.
The virus first reappeared when 70 cases were reported late in October and November, with an additional 75 cases reported during the first week of December. However, Shahin believes there is nothing to fear, citing the World Health Organization’s Director General, Margaret Chan, who recently stated that “as we enter the post-pandemic period, this does not mean that the H1N1 virus has gone away. Based on experience with past pandemics, we expect the H1N1 virus to take on the behavior of a seasonal influenza virus and continue to circulate for some years to come.”
Last week, Shahin warned of an expected H1N1 outbreak in the upcoming months, due to the drop in temperatures. The Ministry of Health advised citizens to consult a doctor when experiencing symptoms of the seasonal flu that are similar to swine flu, including coughing, high fever, body ache and general fatigue. Children, the elderly, pregnant woman and those who suffer from chronic diseases are at higher risk if they catch the virus, and are advised to be particularly careful. “Those who are in these categories must go immediately to the hospital when suffering symptoms similar to the previously mentioned ones,” said Shahin.
The ministry added that Tamiflu antiviral drugs are available for free in all public hospitals, and for reasonable prices at all private pharmacies.
The ministry listed a number of precautionary measures, which include sanitization; proper ventilation at the workplace, public transportation and at home; covering the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, and avoiding crowded places.
Finally, said Shahin, the peak of the virus will be during the last week of December, when the number of cases is expected to double. The curve will then decline during the first two weeks of January, until the beginning of summer.