One of the things you really want to see happen when we are faced with a potential disease threat like Ebola is the swift isolation and testing of anyone who could reasonably be suspected of having the virus.
Of course, what that means is that many will be tested, but few will actually be positive.
Today the Saudi MOH has announced that the first tests on their suspect case (see Saudi MOH: Testing Possible Ebola Suspect) who died late last week have come back negative for Ebola. A second sample has been sent to a German lab, but those results have not yet been returned.
Here is the (machine translated) MOH announcement, after which I’ll be back with a bit more.
The Health Ministry Saturday confirmed 13, corresponding to August 9 negative preliminary tests of samples of Saudi citizen decedent-God's mercy-which was suspected of being Ebola. Where the Health Ministry received preliminary laboratory result directly from the Labs "Center for disease control and prevention in Atlanta in the United States, and us-laboratory will conduct further additional tests and developed to ensure that samples of any other viruses may cause haemorrhagic fever.
The Health Ministry also expects the arrival of the second sample test results to the same State and sent to a laboratory accredited German within days and will be posted as they arrive in line with the Ministry's approach in direct communication and fast with the local and international community.
In the same context, the Ministry said that it will follow the same precautions in dealing with any case with symptoms of the disease is a health threat to the community, including the follow-up to their sociable. Rapid response teams continued to command and control center of the Ministry of health to monitor the health situation in the Kingdom to take all precautionary measures precautionary measures necessary to deal with all eventualities. And follow up with hospitals and health teams at airports and ports to ensure their readiness and commitment to standards of infection control if similar cases.
The Health Ministry issued Wednesday evening Disclaimer advising residents in Saudi Arabia travel to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea until further notice because of the spread of the Ebola virus in those States. The Kingdom has also taken last April a proactive step to stop issuing Umrah and Hajj visas to travelers from the three African countries.
Viruses like Ebola, MERS-CoV, and avian influenza often present with mild, diffuse, and vague symptoms - particularly early on - none of which scream to the patient or clinician that they are infected with something both serious and exotic.
These infections can look very much like dengue, malaria, or seasonal influenza and you can only tell what it is by laboratory tests – and those can take hours, or even days to run (Ebola often won’t test positive until 48 hours after symptoms begin).
For clinicians outside of West Africa, the Middle East, or Asia - the only real tip off for these diseases is the patients recent travel history. If the patient just returned from the Middle East, and has `flu like symptoms’, then MERS has to be ruled out. If the patient has just returned from China and has pneumonia, then tests must be run for avian flu.
We are a couple of months from the typical start of the Northern Hemisphere’s cold & flu season, and with that we can expect that many more travelers coming from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa are going to have `viral symptoms’.
As I wrote last month in MERS: The Price Of Vigilance, not only will we see a lot news stories of `suspected cases’ being tested for these diseases, this will also place a considerable burden on public health and testing laboratories around the world.
While the constant media alerts about `suspect cases’ being tested around the world are jangling to the nerves - and the vast majority will prove to have something mundane or trivial – the fact is in this highly interconnected world, a pathogenic threat anywhere can quickly become a public health threat everywhere.
We no longer have the luxury of ignoring them. Welcome to the new normal.