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Friday, June 19, 2009

Five more swine flu cases detected in Kingdom

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RIYADH/JEDDAH: The Ministry of Health announced five more cases of swine flu yesterday raising the total number of confirmed cases to 22.

The five new cases involve two Filipino nurses who were treating one of the patients infected with the H1N1 virus at Riyadh’s King Abdul Aziz Medical City; a two-year-old boy of unreported nationality who had close contact with swine flu patients at Saudi Aramco Hospital in Dhahran; a nine-year-old Malaysian boy who arrived recently at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah on Malaysian Airlines Flight 150 and who is being treated in Makkah; and yet another Filipino nurse who arrived on June 13 at Riyadh’s King Khaled International Airport via Cathay Pacific Flight 733 on June 13 and who is being treated at King Fahd Medical City National Guard Hospital.

Announcing the new swine flu cases, the Ministry of Health also notified the public that taking flu medication as a preventative treatment against H1N1 is ineffective. Flu medication is only effective after a person contracts the virus. The ministry made its announcement after reports that customers are rushing to stock up on Tamiflu and similar medications.

“Tamiflu is not a preventive medicine, it is a curative tablet that is given when the patient shows symptoms of the disease,” Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Khalid Al-Mirghalani told Arab news yesterday.

According to pharmacists in Jeddah, Tamiflu is flying off the shelves.

“Demand has gone up dramatically,” said pharmacist Mohammed Farooq, the manager of Family Pharmacy in Jeddah. “More and more people are asking for the drug by name. I don’t remember anyone asking for Tamiflu by name before the H1N1 first appeared.”

Farooq said the sale of the medicine that is often mentioned in the media, when it comes to H1N1-related cases, has risen in his store by about 700 percent.

Farooq said even though he can currently obtain only older packages of Tamiflu that will expire in four months, he is confidently stocking his shelves with the medication, “something I usually would not do in normal cases.”

“(Tamiflu) was a slow moving product,” said Mohammed Sayed, a pharmacist for Oxygen Super Pharmacy. “We made a new order last week, double the previous order.”

Sayed said he thinks consumers have been influenced by references to the drug in relation to the H1N1 virus.

“Most of consumers’ awareness of the product has come from watching swine flu news reports on television,” he said

Omar, a 29-year-old businessman seen stocking up on the drug at a local pharmacy, said he’s buying enough of the medication for his entire family now out of concern that the price will go up later, “and there is the fear it will soon be out of stock in the market.”

Al-Nahdi Pharmacy’s Mohammed Hamdi said yesterday he has only a few boxes of Tamiflu remaining and that the pharmacy is ordering more. He says his suppliers have not indicated that they would run out of the product.

The Ministry of Health said the Kingdom is not at risk of running out of flu medicines.

Dr. Sami Abudawood of the Department of Health in Jeddah pointed out that the Ministry of Health would provide flu medication for free at public hospitals to anyone diagnosed with the flu as part of its measures to combat the H1N1 virus.

Meanwhile, Oman’s Health Ministry yesterday reported the Gulf nation’s first three cases of swine flu.

Ministry adviser Jaafar bin Ali said yesterday the cases were diagnosed in three students who had been studying in the United States.

He said their symptoms appeared after arriving in Oman on June 13. All have been sent home after treatment.


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