x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Experts urge calm after two new cases of Mers found in Abu Dhabi

Jordanian woman, who is believed to be the first pregnant person to have contracted the virus, and her husband being treated in hospital in the capital.

ABU DHABI // Experts have reassured that there is no need for panic after two more people in Abu Dhabi have been found to have the Mers coronavirus.

One of the pair is thought to be the first pregnant woman infected by the virus.

A Jordanian man was admitted to intensive care this week after complaining of respiratory symptoms and was found to have the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus.

His wife, who is eight months pregnant, was also found to be infected.

Dr Asim Malik, a consultant and head of infectious disease at Mafraq Hospital, said the UAE was prepared to track and control infectious outbreaks, and people should remain calm.

“We are well equipped,” Dr Malik said. “We have met guidelines and protocols that were put in place … in preparation and anticipation of suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus.

“This is the first ever involving a pregnant woman so we do not know anything about the possible outcome.”

He said that because the coronavirus had only recently been discovered, experts were struggling to understand it and there was no vaccine against it.

“As with any new, emerging disease we cannot predict what will happen,” Dr Malik said. “We do not know its history or its transmission at this moment. We are just waiting for a lot of science at the moment.

“It is very sporadic. We had a big scare with the Haj pilgrimage but nothing much happened there. We do not know where and when it will happen again.”

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 moved to ease any fears people might have.

“It is not a big concern,” Dr Wernery said. “People should not panic. All of the people to have died from Mers so far have had underlying, pre-existing conditions and anything, such as flu, could affect those with a weaker immune system.

“If you see how many people die from road accidents or other disease, such as tuberculosis, then this is really very minor.”

The two new cases of Mers were revealed by the Health Authority Abu Dhabi.

The World Health Organisation said it had been informed of 160 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection worldwide since September last year, including 68 deaths.

The latest two cases would bring the count to 162 cases. Saudi Arabia is the worst-affected country, with 55 deaths.

Mers is considered a deadlier but less-transmittable cousin of the Sars virus that erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, 9 per cent of whom died.

Like Sars, Mers appears to cause a lung infection, with patients suffering from fevers, coughs and breathing difficulties.

But it differs in that it also causes rapid kidney failure and has a far higher death ratio.

jbell@thenational.ae