MOROCCO. Moroccan health officials on Tuesday announced three new cases of H1N1 swine flu, bringing the total in the country to five.
The just-confirmed cases are a woman and her 19-month-old child who travelled from Canada and a 16-year-old girl who flew in from Washington DC in the US.
The first two patients – an 18-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man – have already left hospital fully recovered, the health ministry said. Both arrived last Wednesday on the same flight from Montreal to Casablanca.
Officials noted that detection measures put into place on 30 April to prevent the spread of the illness are proving effective. The first patient, a young Moroccan woman studying in Canada, was spotted by a physician monitoring incoming passengers at Fez International Airport, even though fever detectors failed to sound an alarm.
The doctor advised her to call him if she should develop symptoms. When the student's condition worsened the following day, the doctor arranged to have her admitted to a hospital in Fez.
Dr Khad Ayet Al Taleb, head of Al Hassan II Hospital in Fez, said the girl was quickly stabilised and placed on a five-day treatment programme. In addition, her family was also placed under quarantine for 8-10 days.
As Moroccans residing abroad prepare to come home, particularly from countries with documented cases of the virus, health authorities are bracing for the threat of new infections.
"We will co-operate with the Hassan II Foundation for Moroccans Residing Abroad and the Red Crescent to provide the medical conditions appropriate for Moroccans abroad right upon their return, through fever detection via gateways and thermal cameras installed at crossovers," Dr Nour Ed-Din Shaouki, head of the pandemics division at the Ministry of Health, said in an interview for Magharebia. "If symptoms are evident, medical diagnosis will be easier."
As for those newly-introduced measures slowing down customs clearance, Shaouki said: "Customs clearance taking place slower is far less hazardous than allowing in the virus. However, we will ensure that customs measures take place as smoothly as possible."
During the lifetime of H1N1 – roughly 2.5 months so far – it has caused just 141 deaths worldwide, whereas the traditional flu virus kills nearly 500,000 each year.