Doctors warn on spread of infectious diseases in UAE

With so many expatriate workers, doctors must step up efforts to control infectious diseases such as influenza, chicken pox and TB.

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DUBAI // There is an urgent need for the effective surveillance and control of emerging infectious diseases in the UAE, doctors say.

About 2 million people move to work in GCC countries every year, and a quarter of these suffer from health issues, specifically infectious diseases, said Dr Wasif Muhammad Alam, director of public health and safety at the Dubai Health Authority.

“The spread of communicable disease among expatriate workers can be fatal and the consequences are wide ranging,” said Dr Alam.

He will be discussing the prevalence of infectious diseases in the UAE and GCC at the Arab Health Exhibition and Congress in Dubai next month.

The most prevalent infectious diseases among expatriate workers include influenza, chicken pox, hepatitis, tuberculosis, malaria and food-borne disease, Dr Alam said.

“Despite the extensive screening efforts to tackle the problem of infectious disease transmission among expatriate employees, a key factor remains health awareness and health promotion, which plays a vital role in educating employers and employees about the risks of contracting and spreading these diseases,” he said.

Dr Rasha Salama, a senior specialist in public health at the authority who will also be addressing the conference, said while standards of health care are high in the UAE, communicable diseases were still a concern.

“The increase in prevalence of many infectious diseases, together with the ongoing evolution of viral and microbial variants and selection for drug resistance, suggests that infections will continue to emerge, and probably increase,” Dr Salama said.

“This emphasises the urgent need for effective surveillance and control in the region. Early warning of emerging and re-emerging infections depends on our ability to identify unusual patterns and occurrences as early as possible.

“Information exchange and collaboration with GCC countries is therefore essential.”