MENA: H1N1, Vaccines and Conspiracy Theories

Many countries have introduced vaccinations to help combat the spread of H1N1, or swine flu. As the sickness toll increases, so does the buzz online.

Saudi Arabia is gearing up for the Haj season, where millions of Muslims will converge to Mecca to perform pilgrimage. At Crossroads Arabia, John Burgess writes:

With Haj due to start in just a couple of weeks, the Saudis are really bearing down on the issue of an outbreak of swine flu. Saudi Gazette reports on a conference of Saudi medical emergency experts to make sure that plans are locked down. The article notes that residents of Mecca and Medina will be among the first Saudis to be offered swine flu vaccines. This would help to establish a sort of fire-break in the case of a rapid spread of the disease.

In Turkey, the situation isn't as acute. Turkish blogger Erkan  admits that he was more afraid of previous pandemics:

I did not have a single moment of panic, I declare. I do not know why. I was more worried with crimean congo hemorrhagic fever or bird flu.
However, there is a low level panic feeling about swine flu now here in Istanbul, too. What is promising is that many ordinary people are in fact following authorities and try to take measures as much as they could. They are not fatalistic and they sure are not as indifferent as I am.

Meanwhile, at Memories Documented, Jordanian Qwaider shares a conspiracy theory:

A friend of mine, is one of those believing in every possible conspiracy that involves pharmaceutical companies. She would argue for hours on how vaccines are bad, and how the companies are deliberately taking actions to “reduce the human population” starting with the young, the weak and the ill.

He adds:

I think people are scared, and when people get scared they create demons, and feel afraid and threatened by them. When people are afraid many stick to the norms that they are comfortable with.

But diseases might require a person to go out of their regular routine to get better…

I'm not sure, but I believe in science… I really do, and I would take the words of doctors and pharmacist over the words of any conspiracy theorists no matter how hard they tried to convince me.

And The View from Fez, from Morocco, has the following update on H1N1:

Forty-two new H1N1 cases were confirmed on Thursday in the cities of Casablanca, Tanger, Marrakech, Fès, Benslimane, Oujda and Meknès, the health ministry said.

This takes the total of confirmed cases to 592, including 297 cases in schools, the ministry said in a statement.

All the patients are receiving home care, with medical check-ups, said the ministry, adding that none of the cases is complicated. The ministry made clear that no case of death was documented in the country.

Moving on to lighter observations, Jordanian Hareega writes:

I understand how terrible H1N1 can be, but if you smoke 3 packs of cigarettes and enjoy a ginormous seder of mansaf (Jordanian rice dish) everyday don't worry much about H1N1. Something else will get you faster.

In the same post, Hareega adds:

Seven Jordanians died of H1N1 so far. Ten times that number died while watching our football team lose to UAE 3-1. We need to set our priorities straight. Before vaccinating the nation send our football players to jail.

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