MANILA, Philippines – The number of Filipino nurses confirmed to have been infected with A(H1N1) flu in Saudi Arabia has risen to seven, with reports saying two more tested positive for the virus.
A report in the Arab News (www.arabnews.com) on Saturday said the latest victims of the virus were described by health officials as aged 25 and 26, and were part of a batch of three new cases that included a 10-year-old Saudi boy.
The Arab News report said the A(H1N1) virus entered the kingdom via inbound passengers on flights from the United States, Canada, Australia, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Bahrain, and India.
Coming in contact with these travelers exposed others, mainly relatives and Filipino nursing staff, it added.
The first swine flu case in Saudi Arabia was also a Filipino nurse employed by a major hospital in the capital city of Riyadh. Except for one who is working in the eastern region, all the other infected Filipino nurses were based in Riyadh.
All the infected Filipino nurses were reported to have just arrived in the kingdom from vacation in the Philippines.
Pinoy organizations in Saudi Arabia have expressed concern that the discovery of Filipino nurses among the kingdom’s swine flu cases could result in discrimination against members of the community.
Saudi officials, however, have repeatedly clarified that the A(H1N1) is a pandemic disease that has not spared even developed countries. The kingdom has 48 confirmed swine flu cases, which include Saudis and expatriate workers.
Health officials also noted that all the swine flu cases in the kingdom were “mild" and that many of the patients had recovered.
Health Minister Abdullah Al-Rabeeah was to inaugurate a four day-workshop on the A(H1N1) problem at the Jeddah Hilton Saturday, said the Arab News report.
Health Ministry spokesman Khalid Al-Mirghalani was quoted saying 20 foreign experts from the US Centers for Diseases Control, the World Health Organization, and local health officials from the 20 health regions in the kingdom are to participate in the meeting.
Al-Mirghalani said the workshop would also discuss new preventive measures that could be introduced at the country’s entry points, especially airports.
During the workshop, experts will be taken on field trips to the Haj Terminal of King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Prince Muhammed Bin Abdulaziz Airport in Madinah, and other places where pilgrims gather.
He also said the ministry had set a national committee to control the spread of the A(H1N1) virus. - GMANews.TV