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Visa applicants may face tests for infectious diseases

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Dr Ismail (right, left row) is seen with HMC Infection Control section manager Dr Abdul-latif al-Khal and other attendees during the symposium

By Noimot Olayiwola/Staff Reporter

2:18 AM

A new rule is expected to be issued by the end of this year to ensure that people having infectious diseases are not given visas to enter 2013 Qatar. The Medical Commission and the Ministry of Interior are jointly working on an initiative to make it obligatory for visa applicants to submit a certificate from one of the GCC-approved medical centres, stating that they do not have any infectious disease, a senior official has said. In order to prevent communicable diseases from reaching here, we are working with the Ministry of Interior and the new rule is expected to be issued by the end of this year, said the Medical Commissions Laboratory Services chief, Dr Ahmed Ismail. Making a presentation on Imported Communicable Diseases during a one-day symposium on Travel Medicine organised by the Supreme Council of Health on Saturday, Dr Ismail said such a provision was already in place in Saudi Arabia. According to him, the Medical Commission had recorded high incidences of


communicable diseases such as human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis, tuberculosis and syphilis among newcomers last year. We have recently been witnessing a large influx of expatriate workers to Qatar, especially labourers from those countries with high pandemic of infectious diseases, which is already impacting the number of communicable diseases we are detecting on a daily basis, he said.



are detecting on a daily basis, he said. He also said that there had been an equally steady increase within the last 12 years. According to him, a total of 642,133 newcomers were screened last year compared to 110,447 in the year 2000. The Medical Commission has a policy of screening all newcomers above 15 years for infectious diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis (TB), while some are further screened for hepatitis B and C viruses (HBV and HCV) as well as syphilis due to the nature of their jobs, he said. Those in need of further screening are healthcare workers, medical students, nursing teachers, housemaids and domestic workers, barbers, cabin crew and food handlers. This category of people need to be checked for the other diseases because of their jobs as those diseases have very high transmission mode, Dr Ismail explained. According to him, the prevalence of HIV in 2012 was three cases in every 10,000 people. Last year, a total of 598,513 were screened for HIV and some 160 people tested positive to the virus. For chest X-ray conducted between 2007-2009, 1.7% of a total 1,580,570 of X-ray done during the period were abnormal X-ray results while non-TB related X-ray constituted 36.1%. During the same period, of the 28,377 abnormal X-ray cases detected, a total of 18,029 were old TB cases constituting 63.5% of the total abnormal X-rays. He concluded that for every 100 persons screened for TB, there was a case of old TB and that 1% was given preventive therapy against the disease. The incidence of active TB established during this period was 0.006%, which means for every 100,000 screened, six cases of active TB were discovered. However, Dr Ismail maintained that if left untreated, a case of TB can infect between 10-15 persons yearly, stressing the importance of its early detection and treatment. He said there was only one case of multi-drug resistance TB found in 2009. Of the 172,348 screened for hepatitis A (HBV) in 2012, 1,140 (0.7%) tested positive while for hepatitis C (HCV) a total of 3,457 (2%) were positive, the official said. Of the 54,897 applicants screened for syphilis last year, some 195 (0.4%) were found with the disease.

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