x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Baby born to UAE Mers victim is not infected

The baby's mother had been in a critical condition and was admitted to hospital on November 22, when she was 32 weeks pregnant.

ABU DHABI // Classmates and teachers of an eight-year-old boy who has been infected with Mers are to be tested for the coronavirus.

The Jordanian boy’s mother, 32, who gave birth two weeks ago, has died. His father, 38, is still in hospital.

“All close contacts including healthcare workers, family members, school teachers and students in exposed classes are to be tested for Mers-CoV,” said Dr Jamal Al Kaabi, director of customer care and corporate communications at Health Authority Abu Dhabi.

Dr Al Kaabi said he could not reveal at which school the boy is a pupil. He has mild respiratory symptoms and is receiving the appropriate care.

The boy’s mother had been in a critical condition and was admitted to hospital on November 22, when she was 32 weeks pregnant.

Dr Al Kaabi confirmed the newborn, a girl who was delivered by caesarean, was not infected.

The mother is believed to have been the first pregnant woman to have contracted the virus.

His father was admitted to an intensive care unit after complaining of respiratory symptoms and was found to have the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, which kills about half of those infected.

The boy and his father are both in a stable condition.

The World Health Organisation has confirmed that, unlike many other Mers cases, the mother, father and son had no history of travel, no contact with a known confirmed case and no history of contact with animals.

The boy’s condition was diagnosed as Mers-CoV during medical check-ups of family members and he was admitted to hospital on Sunday.

Respiratory samples had been sent to the National Virology Laboratory in Abu Dhabi where they tested positive, said Dr Al Kaabi.

An emergency committee on Mers-CoV organised by the WHO is set to discuss the situation on Wednesday.

The committee, comprising experts from all WHO regions, said conditions for an international public health emergency had not been met.

Dr Al Kaabi said Haad would continue to monitor the situation in Abu Dhabi and was working with the Ministry of Health.

“Since December last year, we requested hospitals to monitor the situation,” he said.

“Haad is coordinating with the Ministry of Health and other authorities in the country and has taken the necessary measures as per the international standards and recommendations of the World Health Organisation.”

The WHO confirmed on Monday that three laboratory-confirmed cases of infection had been reported to them, all from the same family. The onset of the illness was November 15.

The organisation has been informed of 163 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection worldwide, including 70 deaths, since September last year.

Saudi Arabia is the worst affected country for Mers, accounting for 55 deaths.

The WHO has urged all member states to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections.

Travellers returning from the Middle East who develop such infections should be tested for Mers-CoV, the organisation advises.

Diarrhoea is commonly reported among the patients and severe complications include renal failure and acute respiratory distress syndrome with shock.

The virus is being compared to that of Sars, which broke out in Asia 10 years ago and infected 8,273 people, 9 per cent of whom died.

Like Sars, Mers-CoV appears to cause a lung infection, with patients suffering from a temperature, cough and breathing difficulty.

But it differs in that it also causes rapid kidney failure and while Mers-CoV is less easily transmitted it is far deadlier.

Researchers believe that the virus originates in bats but is also found in camels.

Dr Lata Balakrishna, a specialist in internal medicine at Abu Dhabi’s Burjeel Hospital, said Mers-CoV would be difficult to contain in a school.

“Of course these recent cases are a cause for concern,” Dr Balakrishna said. “We have to be very careful.

“This is why it is so important that anyone who experiences any respiratory tract infections should stay at home and avoid public places.

“In the hospital, anyone displaying respiratory problems such be isolated at the first instance to protect healthcare workers. We should be on high alert.”

Dr Balakrishna said more public awareness was needed on infection control.

“Frequent handwashing is so important,” she said. “And if you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth.”

jbell@thenational.ae