Monday, December 7, 2009

Egypt: Possible Nationwide School Closures

By Reem Leila

No one seems to know how severe the swine flu epidemic will be, leaving the Egyptian government scrambling to respond. Thousands of parents have been left clueless as the number of infections and fatalities increases and the Ministry of Health has announced it may close schools nationwide if cases of pneumonia and H1N1 continue to rise. The return of 73,000 Egyptian pilgrims from Saudi Arabia is increasing public anxiety. Many already doubt the end of term exams, scheduled for the end of January, will take place.

Captain Hassan Rashed, head of Cairo Airport, says each group of returning pilgrims is accompanied by two doctors to check on them. "On their arrival at the airport pilgrims are thermally scanned in groups. Anyone displaying flu-like symptoms or suffering from a fever is sent to the airport's quarantine area and from there to hospital."

Five pilgrims have died from swine flu and 73 others are reported to have contracted the virus during the hajj. None of the cases involves Egyptians.

Awad Mahgour, director of communicable diseases at the WHO, points out the level of infection is low so far given that the hajj is the largest annual gathering in the world. But Mahgour warns true levels of infection will not be clear until pilgrims return to their home countries.

A press release issued by Health Minister Hatem El-Gabali outlines plans to vaccinate the first 1.5 million of Egypt's 16 million students. "The ministry will receive 1.2 million doses of H1N1 vaccine in January, the third batch Egypt has received. Pupils at schools with the highest densities will be given priority," said El-Gabali. Cabinet Information and Decision Support Centre (IDSC) figures show that of the 3,216 cases of swine flu reported, 1,881 were in schools and 169 in universities.

As the suspension of a whole academic year to check the spread of swine flu among school children is being considered there is a growing feeling that officials responsible for measures to contain the H1N1 virus -- which so far has proved less dangerous than seasonal flu -- are overreacting.

"The H1N1 virus in its current form is weak when compared to seasonal flu, with a fatality rate in Egypt of less than one per cent," says Mohamed Awad Tageddin, professor of respiratory diseases at Ain Shams University. "Some 94 per cent of those who contracted the virus in Egypt have recovered."

Many parents are worried about losing the money they have paid for their children's school fees for the year. While private international schools provide students with daily curriculums and assignments on the Internet students at less equipped institutions have been left with no other choice than costly private classes, which are being held at homes or in non- governmental education centres, to supplement the Education Ministry's site and the six terrestrial channels that broadcast the curricula from primary one until the end of the secondary stage.

Source: Al-Ahram Weekly

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excelente post y muy buen articulo! :):):):):):)