Experts call for calm after fatal case of Mers reported in UAE
ABU DHABI // Experts have calmed fears over the deadly Mers virus after the disease killed one person and infected another in the country.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported two new cases of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus in the UAE on Wednesday.
The total global number of cases is now 200, with 85 deaths.
One case involves a 49-year-old man from Abu Dhabi who has underlying medical conditions and had contact with another Mers patient, a 68-year-old man from the emirate who owned camels.
The WHO said the 49-year-old went into hospital on February 27 before being discharged after his condition improved.
However, he was readmitted on March 16, where he remains in a critical condition.
UAE authorities informed WHO of the case on March 20.
The second case involves an Omani in the UAE, whose age or gender was not disclosed.
The Omani had no recent history of travel or contact with animals or other Mers patients, according to WHO, but he died from the virus.
UAE officials reported this case to the WHO on March 23.
“There is no need to panic,” said Dr Asim Malik, a consultant and head of infectious disease at Mafraq Hospital in Abu Dhabi.
Dr Malik said the UAE, which is the second most prevalent country for Mers after Saudi Arabia, was well equipped to deal with any outbreak.
The reason we have been catching the cases because of the super vigilant system we have adopted in the UAE, as per WHO recommendations and Health Authority-Abu Dhabi guidelines, said Dr Malik.
“We have a very strong infection control system. We are fully prepared.”
There is also no evidence to suggest the virus is evolving or becoming more easily transmittable, he said.
“The more severe cases have been the ones that have underlying condition. We have had cases in the country who have succumbed to the diseases and we have cases that have survived and that is in keeping with the global picture of the disease, which is approximately 40 to 50 per cent mortality.
“We, as experts, have no spotted any change in the pattern. I think we are in good shape.”
Dr Ulrich Wernery, a director of the central veterinary research laboratory in Dubai, whose research suggests camels could be responsible for passing the virus to humans, also said the latest Mers cases should not cause great concern, saying there were still comparatively few cases.
“There is nothing to panic about I think,” he said. “But we need to do some more research. It is very, very important because we have to find out where it comes from and how it is transmitted.”
While it remains unknown how people contract the disease, camels are thought to play a key role in the spread of the coronavirus.
“There are a lot of people doing the research and I am 100 per cent sure that one day we will find out but it takes time,” he said. “It is very difficult, we have to take many samples,” said Dr Wernery.
Previous studies have shown bats to be a source of the virus. Subsequent research has focused on camels.
Dr Wernery suggested rodents could even be a host of the virus but said more research is needed.
“There are many people working on the disease who want to find out the way of infection,” he said.
As yet, there is no vaccine for Mers and treatment is mainly supportive.
The WHO is urging all of its member nations to remain vigilant and report any new cases to it as soon as possible. Cases of Mers, which can cause coughing, fever, pneumonia and kidney failure, have been confirmed in the Middle East, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Tunisia.
Updated: March 26, 2014 04:00 AM