BAHRAIN has "re-activated" its health services over possible bird flu cases with the onset of winter, it was announced yesterday.
Health Ministry communicable diseases department head Dr Muna Al Mousawi said there was a greater risk of the virus coming to Bahrain in the winter with the increased migration of birds from colder countries.
"Bahrain traditionally receives a huge number of these winged visitors and that makes us a bit more cautious in these months," she told the GDN.
"The virus is also such that it thrives in the cold winter months."
Dr Al Mousawi said that Bahrain has been very well-prepared for several months.
"We have now sent out letters to all bodies, departments and organisations concerned to be ready in case there is a threat," she said.
The official said that it was very likely that Bahrain would remain free of the deadly virus.
"That is, however, no reason to be complacent," she added.
Dr Al Mousawi said a special ward, set up to receive possible bird flu patients, has remained open in the last few months, after it was established in March this year.
"The 18-bed isolation ward at the Salmaniya Medical Complex is staffed by four nurses, two chest physicians, two intravenous specialists and two intensive care specialists, who are on duty on a rotation basis," she said.
The ward is well-stocked with all the latest machines and state-of-the-art equipment to treat patients, added Dr Al Mousawi.
"We have also been in touch with the authorities at the Accident and Emergency Department to prevent any patient suspected of suffering from bird flu going into the main hospital through the department," she said.
Dr Al Mousawi said over the last year, they have carried out regular drills to ensure that all such patients, should they turn up, to be transported straight to the special ward from the hospital's emergency triage area by ambulance.
"We need to minimise the risk of transmission to any other patients in the hospital," she said.
The ministry also has stockpiled enough anti-flu medication (anti-viral drugs) to treat 25 per cent of its adult population, which is more than the five per cent requirement of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
"There is still no vaccination for the condition, but the WHO has recommended that the high risk population be vaccinated against the ordinary flu to prevent human to human infection in case," said Dr Al Mousawi.