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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09DOHA513
2009-08-17 12:41:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Doha
Cable title:  

H1N1 UPDATE IN QATAR: MEETING WITH MINISTRY OF

Tags:   PREL  PINR  KFLU  AEMR  AMED  ASEC  CASC  KFLO  TBIO 
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VZCZCXRO4240
PP RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHDIR
DE RUEHDO #0513/01 2291241
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 171241Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY DOHA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9328
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 0525
RHMFISS/COMSOCCENT MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DOHA 000513 

SIPDIS

RIYADH FOR RMO (MANI SRINIVASAN)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/12/2019
TAGS: PREL PINR KFLU AEMR AMED ASEC CASC KFLO TBIO
KSAF, KPAO, AMGT, MG, QA
SUBJECT: H1N1 UPDATE IN QATAR: MEETING WITH MINISTRY OF
HEALTH OFFICIALS

Classified By: CDA Mirembe L. Nantongo for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

--------------
(C) KEY POINTS
--------------

-- (U) There have been 350 reported cases of the H1N1 virus
in Qatar, according to Government of Qatar (GOQ) officials.
This represents an increase from an earlier - probably
under-reported - figure of 43 reported cases. One American
has been quarantined in Doha and there has been one reported
fatality to date (a Qatari national).

-- (C) Foreign patients are being isolated in Qatar's medical
complex, while Qatari patients are quarantined at home.

-- (C) Officials at the Ministry of Health expect the number
of H1N1 cases to increase as residents return from summer
vacation and again when pilgrims return from the Hajj in late
November and early December.

------------
(C) COMMENTS
------------

-- (C) It is post's assessment that the increase in the
number of reported H1N1 cases in Qatar does not reflect a
rapid spread in the virus, but rather earlier under-reporting
by the authorities in an effort to prevent public panic.

-- (C) The GOQ appears knowledgeable about H1N1 and seem to
be taking appropriate steps to combat it. The GOQ does
appear, however, to be disbursing antiviral medication too
liberally.

-- (C) Embassy obtained the GOQ Supreme Council of Health's
most recent Pandemic Update newsletter, dated August 13,
which provides hospitals and clinics with guidelines for
treating H1N1 cases. This document instructs health units to
test only high-risk patients - over 65 years old, under 2
years old, pregnant, and so on, - and those suffering from
severe respiratory illness. Given these instructions, it
seems unlikely the GOQ has an accurate count of H1N1 cases in
the country.

End Key Points and Comments.

-----------
H1N1 UPDATE
-----------



1. (U) Qatar's Supreme Council of Health is now reporting 350
H1N1 cases, up from the previous figure of 43, according to a
report in a local English-language newspaper published on
August 12. This gives Qatar the 3rd largest total of cases
in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. To date there
has been only one reported fatality - a Qatari businessman
who contracted the disease in Dubai.



2. (U) RMO and Emboffs met with Dr. Husam Rezeq, head of the
Communicable Disease Control section at the Ministry of
Health, and Dr. Shazia Nadeem, Head of Emergency Preparedness
Program on August 12 at the Ministry of Health. They
discussed the H1N1 situation in Qatar. Dr. Rezeq reported
that his entire section was focused on the H1N1 pandemic,
although there have been no human-to-human transmissions in
Qatar. To date, all H1N1 patients reportedly contracted the
virus in other countries. He stated that there have been 350
cases of H1N1 virus influenza in Qatar.



--------------------------


TREATMENT IN QATAR


--------------------------





3. (C) Drs. Rezeq and Nadeem explained Qatar's process for
responding to suspected cases of H1N1. All health centers,
public and private, have been educated on how to recognize
H1N1 symptoms and, according to Dr. Rezeq, told to refer
suspected patients to Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) or one
of 4-5 satellite test centers which were established so as
not to overburden HMC.



4. (C) Dr. Nadeem reported that Qatar was no longer relying
on the rapid H1N1 test, as it had proven ineffective. The
test they employ yields results in 2-3 days; while the
diagnosis is pending, the treatment for H1N1 - Tamiflu or

DOHA 00000513 002 OF 002


Relenza - is started.



5. (C) At this point, the procedure for Qataris and
foreigners diverges, according to Dr. Rezeq. He noted that
Qataris are released while the hospital waits for the test
results. If the patient is negative for H1N1, Dr. Rezeq said
he or she is told to finish the medication they have been
given, since Tamiflu and Relenza are effective against other
viruses. However, those patients who test positive are
quarantined in their homes -- though particularly severe
cases are hospitalized in HMC, according to Dr. Nadeem.
(Note: Dr. Rezeq stated that only 3 H1N1 patients had been
hospitalized, one of whom was a Qatari businessman who
contracted the illness in Dubai and died upon his return to
Qatar. According to press reports, he was suffering from
other health complications prior to contracting the illness.)



6. (C) Dr. Rezeq explained that those who are quarantined
receive daily calls from authorities, both to assess the
patient's condition and to ensure adherence to the
quarantine. After five days of taking the medication, the
patient is asked to abstain from using it for 24 hours. If
symptoms do not resurface during that period, the patient is
released from quarantine, according to Dr. Rezeq.



7. (C) Non-citizens of Qatar (residents, visitors, and those
in transit) who are suspected of suffering from H1N1, in
contrast, are isolated in HMC until the test results are
received, the doctors explained. If the test results are
negative for H1N1, the patient is released. If the test
results are positive, however, the patient is kept at HMC
for the duration of the treatment. (Note: Post knows of only
one American who has been quarantined in HMC - a young boy
who was transiting Doha on his way to Bangladesh.)



8. (C) Dr. Nadeem said thermal imaging has been used at Doha
International Airport to screen arriving passengers. Although
it has proved an ineffective screening mechanism, the thermal
imaging will be continued, she added. Dr. Nadeem also
reported that the Ministry has observed no resistance to
medication. He also revealed that Qatar does not have enough
flu vaccine for the entire population so it would be
distributed according to World Health Organization
guidelines. Dr. Rezeq said that Qatar plans to vaccinate all
children once the vaccine becomes available, but provided no
further specifics.



--------------------------


H1N1 OUTLOOK


--------------------------





9. (C) Both doctors emphasized that the situation is likely
to worsen due to a combination of factors: the approach of
winter; the return of Qataris from vacation; and the upcoming
Hajj. Dr. Rezeq revealed that the Qatari authorities are
prepared to convert Doha's Rumaila Hospital into a H1N1
center if necessary.



10. (C) Concerning the Hajj, Dr. Rezeq said that Qatar
planned to disseminate educational programs and kits to
companies organizing travel to Mecca. He also noted that
science alone was not enough to induce caution in the
pilgrims, so the GOQ intended to use religion to support
their policies by referencing Koranic injunctions supportive
of preventive measures that reduce the likelihood of
transmission. The Saudis are drafting a fatwa supporting the
guidelines designed to combat the spread of H1N1, according
to the doctors.
Nantongo