Palestine: Swine Flu Arrives In Gaza

The H1N1 influenza virus reached the Gaza Strip much later than it did other places, a fact attributed to the blockade imposed upon its population by both Israel and Egypt. The first death from H1N1 was announced earlier this month. In this post, bloggers in Gaza report on the fears and reactions of the population regarding swine flu – and on the rocketing sales of the spice believed to prevent it.

Omar Ghraieb writes at Sabbah Report:

Following the global pandemic known as Swine Flu (H1N1) in most parts of the world, Gazans started to believe they might be immune to its ravages. Their sense of assurance ended on December 6th when the first swine flu patient died in Gaza. People here were over whelmed with mixed feelings of fear blended with shock. This death hit them hard because at that time the virus was not talked about as much in other places in the world and the number of swine flu fatalities was decreasing. […] After the first death announcement on December 6, bad news started to flow like the dirty water canals. With many new cases of suspected swine flu infection began the horrifying, though unsubstantiated, rumor that a large numbers of Palestinians were dying when getting their treatments in Israel.

He continues:

Gaza is at risk because of returning pilgrims from Mecca where Muslims from around the world have gone to finish their pilgrimage rituals may have caught the virus. In addition, many foreigners enter Gaza either to work here in one of the countless NGOs or to show the support.

Lina Al Sharif, blogging at 360 km2 of Chaos, writes:

As the flu reached us after months of its outbreak in many parts of the world, I’ve found that the people have a very high sense of awareness. Today, I was going to grab my snack, so I went to a close-by grocery. I was surprised that the owners have printed out sheets of the H1N1 symptoms and measures of protection. There is a sense of panic; Gaza lacks adequate medical care when it comes to the very basic treatment of very regular diseases, so there are fears of an outbreak. I heard a doctor saying that many people were told they had the regular flu, yet potentially they had the swine flu.

A new expression is being used:

But since the health department announced that H1N1 is in Gaza, the people now suspect anyone that is coughing or sneezing is actually “got swined”. Many people created some sort of an expression to imply “H1N1 positive” by “you got swined”. This is the best translation I could think of.

The spice star anise is believed to prevent swine flu (though it seems star anise is being confused with aniseyansoon in Arabic, commonly used to make a hot drink):

Finally, since the announcement, the people got frenzy about getting their share of Anise as it is vital to heal and protect oneself of this flu. And surely, many retailers are making advantage of this situation; the prices of anise have soared like never before. […] Moreover, the sales of the hand sanitizer, also known as ‘Hygeen”, have also soared dramatically.

Spanish garlic is popular too, according to Omar Ghraieb:

People here started to panic as they searched for any information on how to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus – how to fight it and how to kill it. Merchants stepped in to help people get their prevention tools, but in fact they were benefiting from the panic and ignorance – a general lack of information about the virus. Gazans were offered various remedies such as anise and Spanish garlic. Within days, anise vanished from Gaza due to the demand. With pharmacies here promoting Spanish garlic as “H1N1’s most powerful prevention tool,” the panic and ignorance continued.

Ola Anan writes at her blog From Gaza:

وبعدين قصة الينسون هادي عنجد اشي بيضحك
صار الكل يقول والله سمعنا الينسون هادا بشفى من الانفلونزا .. ويادوب الخبر انتشر .. وبظرف يومين بالعدد ارتفع سعر الينسون وتضاعف بدرجة مخيفة مش ممكن تتخيلوها … يعني كان الكيلو بـ 12 شيكل مثلا .. ويامين يشتريه .. هلأ وصل سعر الكيلو لـ 200 و 260 شيكل بظرف يومين !!!
Then came the story of anise; this is really something laughable.
Everyone started saying – we really heard it – that anise heals you from flu…As soon as the news started spreading, within two days the price of anise had risen and multiplied to a frightening degree, you can't imagine…For example, a kilo had been 12 shekels (US$3)…then it reached 200 (US$52.5) and 260 shekels (US$68.5) per kilo within two days!

And don't forget the masks:

الشغلة التانية الي صارت موضة .. الا وهي لبس الكمامات … بالمدارس هلأ بتلاقي الولاد الصغار كل واحد لابس كمامة وصارت لعبتهم .. وبنفس الوقت بتلاقي اولاد جايبين معاهم من بيوتهم صابونة ومنشفة وكل شوية رايحين جايين يغسلوا ايديهم ..
A second thing that has become a craze is wearing masks…In schools now you will find young children, every one wearing a mask, and it's a game to them…And at the same time you will find kids bringing soap and a towel from home, and every so often going to wash their hands…

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