The recent resurgence of MERS in Saudi Arabia after a relatively quiet July and August has prompted several recent statements from the Health Ministry, including this one yesterday, urging the public, and healthcare facilities, to take steps to prevent exposure and onward transmission of the virus.
Last week, in Saudi MOH Statement On Recent MERS Cases In Taif, we saw a promise by the Ministry of Health to investigate, and bring to a halt, the nosocomial spread of the virus in Taif healthcare facilities.
Today, with internet rumors running rife on Twitter and in social media (see here), the Saudi MOH has issued a refreshingly candid statement, indicating that they are particularly concerned about the ongoing chain of transmission in Taif, and that additional cases could be expected in the coming days or weeks.
28 October 2014
MERS-CoV remains a significant health threat in Saudi Arabia, where 38 confirmed cases of the disease have been reported since September 5th, according to the Ministry of Health.
The Command & Control Center, which is responsible for coordinating the response to MERS-CoV, is particularly concerned about breaking the chain of transmission in Taif, where a cluster was identified in September. At least 17 people have been infected with the virus in Taif since September 5th. The primary cases in Taif involved people who had unprotected contact with camels and then came into contact with others, including healthcare workers.
"The available evidence indicates that camels transmit MERS-CoV to humans, who then infect each other through direct contact with droplets that contain the virus," said Dr. Anees Sindi, deputy commander of the MOH Command & Control Center. "The situation in Taif is still under investigation and we expect to see more cases in the coming days and weeks."
The Ministry has developed strict protocols for treating MERS-CoV patients in collaboration with international partners at the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has designated hospitals to serve as MERS-CoV Centers of Excellence. These facilities are designed to provide life-saving treatment to people who are infected with the disease while ensuring that healthcare workers are protected from exposure to the virus. Patients are transferred to these Centers of Excellence whenever possible.
"We are taking aggressive action to reduce the rate of infection in Taif," Dr. Sindi said. "This includes educating the public about the importance of avoiding close contact with camels and providing additional training for hospital workers on proper infection-control procedures."The Ministry's Command & Control Center also developed a comprehensive disease surveillance system that provides real-time information about new cases and the capacity of health facilities to provide intensive-care to MERS-CoV patients.
Proper hand washing and coughing etiquette, are basic but essential steps everyone should take to reduce the risk of infection. To prevent MERS-CoV infections, members of the public are also urged to avoid contact with camels and refrain from consuming raw camel milk or undercooked camel meat. Anyone who must come into close contact with camels should wear a disposable mask, gown and face mask to avoid being exposed to the virus.
There have been 780 confirmed symptomatic cases of MERS-CoV since June 2012. At least 435 have been cured and 333 people have died and 12 under treatment.
Call 937 or visit http://www.moh.gov.sa/en/CCC to learn more about MERS-CoV and how to prevent infection