x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Swine flu claims first death in Saudi

A Saudi man has died after being struck down by the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, according to the kingdom's health ministry.

A Saudi man has died after being struck down by swine flu, the first death from the disease in the kingdom, the health ministry said today. The 30-year-old man was admitted to a private hospital in Dammam in eastern Saudi Arabia on Wednesday with a fever and pneumonia. He died on Saturday from H1N1 despite the application of antibiotics and the anti-flu drug Tamiflu, the ministry said. Israel today confirmed its first death from swine flu, with the health ministry reporting that a 35-year-old man died at the weekend in the Red Sea resort city of Eilat. The Israeli health ministry says that at least 890 people have so far contracted the (A) H1N1 virus in the Jewish state. A senior ministry official warned last week that one quarter of the Israeli population, or about 1.85 million people, could catch swine flu in the next few months. The number of cases in Saudi Arabia now tops 300, adding to worries over the expected influx of some two million foreigners undertaking the haj pilgrimage to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina later this year.

At an emergency meeting in Cairo last week, Arab health ministers recommended that children under 12 and people over 65 be banned from the haj this year to reduce the risk. The Saudi health ministry spokesman Khaled Marghlani said on Saturday that Riyadh was likely to adopt this measure, and it would press for pilgrims to be vaccinated against H1N1 if a vaccine is proven and available ahead of the haj period, beginning in November.

He added that the age restrictions would not affect the country quotas set for the number of people going on the haj. "This will not touch on the quotas, the percentage of pilgrims" allocated to each country, he told AFP. "When we implement the new law, it will stay as it is." * AFP