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College students show mixed feelings over H1N1 threat

posted on 12/08/2009: 1706 views

Tertiary school students say they have mixed feelings about returning to their universities owing to the possibility of contracting the H1N1 virus.

"It is a little scary because people have gone to different countries," said Mariam Zubair, a student at Middlesex University Dubai (MUD).

Mentioning the various nationalities making up the student body at MUD, Mariam said the return of students from their home countries could increase the chances of "people like us, who have not travelled over the holidays, catching it too."

However, those who have been on holiday seem to be more relaxed about the issue. "I've just returned from the most affected country in Europe, Britain, so I'm not worried at all," said Hassan Al Hassani, a student at the Canadian University of Dubai.

He added that returning to the UAE from the United Kingdom "doesn't worry me at all."

Al Hassani believes students and staff should be screened. However, he also believes that universities should not be allowed to carry out this screening as such activities are the job of health authorities.

Fatima Al Mulla recently came in contact with friends who had contracted the virus and remains unconcerned about becoming sick on campus "because statistics show it's just like a normal flu and affects children and the elderly."

However, her parents, have reservations about her going back to the American University of Sharjah as they feel the campus bathroom facilities are unhygienic. They believe that this could contribute to the spread of swine flu especially during Ramadan.

Khalid Al Beloushi of Dubai Women's College said: "Of course it's something people worry about. However, I'm confident about the security measures at the airports and so on." "I feel it's important that universities screen students but they also shouldn't scare us because it will affect our studies."

University of Sharjah (UOS) Chancellor Professor Samy Mahmoud said he did not expect a serious outbreak of swine because of the precautions currently being taken. "[However,] we are prepared for worst case scenarios," he added.

He said the university was prepared to cancel scheduled events if there was a widespread outbreak of the virus.

The American University in Dubai has also developed an awareness campaign related to swine flu prevention, according to AUD Health Centre director Nelly Halabi. The information will be posted on bulletin boards on campus and e-mailed to students before the semester begins. The matter will also be discussed during orientation sessions.

"We have set up a meeting with the American Hospital's infectious diseases specialists to develop a list of questions and answers to comfort the AUD population."

"Any staff member or student with a recent history of travel and having flu-like symptoms will be referred to [a] government hospital for proper screening," Halabi said.

BITS Pilani-Dubai officials are informing their 1,750 student body, via e-mail, of the precautions and steps they should take, admissions manager Nahid Afshan said.

She said students suffering from flu-like symptoms should get medical attention and refrain from coming to the institution for the seven day period following infection. – Gulf News


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