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Parents in Sama Sarhan not sending children to school over H1N1 fears

By Dana Al Emam - Mar 24,2015 - Last updated at Mar 24,2015

AMMAN — The fear of catching H1N1 (swine) flu has prompted residents of Mafraq’s Sama Sarhan Municipality to avoid sending their children to school, after a few cases were recently diagnosed in the area.

Um Abdullah, a resident of Sama Sarhan, some 80km northeast of Amman, said she has not sent her fourth and seventh grade sons to school since Sunday, fearing they would mingle with classmates who contracted the flu but have not been diagnosed.

“Health and education authorities are constantly denying the cases, although residents know about them,” she claimed, adding that residents are afraid after news circulated about the death of a man who reportedly had H1N1 flu.

“Schools are empty and people are avoiding direct contact with each other,” Um Abdullah told The Jordan Times over the phone on Tuesday.

Another area resident, Khaled Sarhan, also did not send his three children to school, and he feels authorities are not addressing public fears.

“If one of my family members caught the virus, I wouldn’t know how to deal with the situation,” he said in a phone interview, adding that even those who live far from the infected family are scared. 

A family of six was admitted to Mafraq Public Hospital over the weekend after being diagnosed with the virus, but  all of them have been discharged in fair condition, according to Bashir Qaseer, head of the Health Ministry’s primary health directorate. 

Qaseer noted that the patient who died was pronounced dead on arrival at the Sama Sarhan Medical Centre, four days before the family was admitted to hospital.

“The initial forensic report showed that the patient suffered from pneumonia,” he said, adding that samples are still under study to determine whether or not he had the H1N1 virus.  

No official data is available on the number of H1N1 patients in the Kingdom, according to Qaseer, but mortality rates among patients globally are up to 3 per cent of diagnosed cases.

Commenting on the issue, Jordan Teachers Association (JTA) Spokesperson Ayman Okour said the lack of “clear” information led to the spread of “correct or incorrect thoughts and actions”.

However, the JTA will contact the Health Ministry to inquire about the number of H1N1 cases and their locations, in order to get a better picture of the situation in Sama Sarhan.

Okour suggested that the Health Ministry send medical teams to schools in affected areas, calling on the Education Ministry to instruct schools to monitor the health of students and report any symptoms of the virus.

In a related development, a 42-year-old diabetic patient who was diagnosed with the H1N1 virus died on Tuesday at a private hospital in Zarqa Governorate, according to a Health Ministry statement carried by the Jordan News Agency, Petra.

The World Health Organisation has been dealing with H1N1 as a type of “seasonal virus” since 2010, Health Ministry Spokesperson, Hatem Azrui said, adding that several H1N1 cases have been registered in the Kingdom, and the number is expected to increase over the next few months.

The H1N1 virus first emerged in Jordan in June 2009 with 3,049 cases and 16 related fatalities registered in the country that year.

The strain re-emerged in December 2010, causing 289 illnesses and 17 related deaths.

But the virus has since become seasonal, with fewer diagnosed cases and rare cases of death.

The Health Ministry has said that since the first outbreak of the disease in the country, all H1N1-related deaths in Jordan occurred among patients in high-risk groups such as the elderly, children, pregnant women and those with respiratory diseases.

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