National measures to prepare the public for swine flu take account of the possibility of a widespread outbreak of the disease, a Ministry of Health official said. Khodr Awad, a health education consultant for the National Educational Campaign Against Swine Flu, said there were four phases to the education campaign, which included provisions for a countrywide outbreak, as well as recurrences.
"Phase one is where we have only cases coming from abroad, which we have now," he said. "Phase two is cases coming from abroad plus limited local transmission. Phase three is when we have deep local transmission. "Phase four is the recurrence. After the peak, things die down, then all of a sudden we have a recurrence." The MoH did not say whether it was expecting an outbreak. The first phase was already under way and was aimed at four groups of people seen as being at risk of contracting the swine flu virus, H1N1: travellers into the country, people travelling outside the country, students residing abroad, and customs agents.
"We are also targeting the community as a whole, but not in a way to say 'Wash your hands or do this or do that.' "What we want to do is sensitise them about the disease, to let them know that the disease is there. We want them to adapt to the disease, so when it reaches another phase they don't panic." He said that the full programme was expected to be signed off in the next week and would be implemented soon after that. The first part of the awareness campaign - alerting the public about the disease - was under way.
The incubation period for swine flu is about a week, after which a person infected with the virus will begin to develop symptoms. It is understood that members of a swine flu victim's family and anybody who has come into contact with him or her, will have to be quarantined at home for the entire seven days, unable to go out or to receive guests. At present, the country has enough antiviral drugs to treat 50,000, but more supplies are expected by September. The ministry has said that there are provisions available for emergencies.
At the weekend it confirmed the country's 11th case of swine flu.