x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE Ministry of Health confirms two new cases of Mers

Both patients suffering from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome are said to be in a stable condition in hospital, a Ministry of Health spokesman said

ABU DHABI // After a seven-week hiatus, two new cases of the potentially deadly Mers coronavirus have been discovered in the emirate.

The patients were reported to be stable in hospital in Abu Dhabi and were receiving the necessary medical care, the Ministry of Health (MoH) said on Wednesday.

Dr Asim Malik, a consultant and the head of infectious disease at Mafraq Hospital, said the new cases were not a cause for concern.

“These cases should not cause any panic or alarm.

“These are sporadic cases and the community should just continue to practise infection control in terms of hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.”

Lessons have been learnt following a spate of laboratory confirmed Mers infections between late March and early May, Dr Malik said.

“We realised that those cases were related to infection control and prevention measures in the healthcare community and that is why we stressed stringent adherence to infection-control guidelines implemented by the Health Authority Abu Dhabi.”

He said healthcare workers needed to continue to strictly adhere to these protocols.

Dr Salwan Ibrahim, Middle East medical director for International SOS, a company of experts in global health issues, said the public should continue to be proactive against the spread of Mers.

“While the number of Mers cases has fallen over recent weeks, that doesn’t mean people should stop taking precautions,” he said. “We have been continuing to advise our clients to urge their staff to mitigate the risks by washing hands frequently, using hand sanitisers, and ensuring food is thoroughly washed, peeled and cooked.

“They are also advised to avoid unnecessary contact with wild animals, mainly camels, and sick people.”

The gender, age, nationality and medical history of the two new cases was not released and it was not known if either had recently come into contact with animals.

The last-known cases in the UAE were officially reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on May 21.

The Ministry of Health, in a statement released through the state news agency Wam, said it was coordinating with the other health authorities in the country and had taken all necessary measures as recommended by the WHO.

The health authority is asking all Muslims making the annual Haj to Saudi Arabia to take the necessary vaccinations at least two weeks before travel.

The elderly, those with chronic illnesses and immune deficiencies, pregnant women and those under the age of 12 should postpone trips to Mecca this year, it advised.

The ministry said the WHO had reiterated that the virus was not a concern for public health at the moment, and that the current situation did not require a travel ban to any country, screenings at ports, or any restrictions on trade.

Middle East respiratory syndrome is a virus causing acute, serious respiratory illness with symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.

The Mers coronavirus was identified in 2012.

Since then, 827 laboratory-confirmed cases of Mers, including at least 287 deaths, have officially been reported around the world to the WHO.

jbell@thenational.ae