Earlier today, in Saudi Arabia – A MERS Surge?, we looked at recent reports of MERS cases in Taif and a hospital inspection conducted yesterday by Health Minister Faqih.
Today the Saudi MOH site has posted the following statement regarding these recent cases, and the steps they are taking to address the situation.
20 October 2014
His Excellency Eng. Adel M. Fakeih, the acting Minister of Health, conducted an urgent inspection Sunday of King Faisal and King Abdulaziz hospitals in response to a MERS-CoV cluster in Taif.
The Ministry’s Command & Control Center has confirmed nine MERS-CoV cases in the Taif area over the last two weeks.
“The concerning rate of infection in Taif suggests we may see additional cases of MERS-CoV there in the coming days,” Minister Fakeih said. “This is a reminder of the dangers to the public of unprotected contact with camels and the need for healthcare workers to follow proper infection-control procedures.”
In addition to sporadic cases most likely linked to exposure to infected camels, there have been some secondary infections that involved patients and healthcare workers at local hospitals.
“We might not be able to eradicate MERS-CoV from nature, but the Ministry must do everything possible to protect patients and healthcare workers from this disease,” the Minister said. “Even one MERS-CoV infection acquired in the hospital is a crisis that demands an immediate and comprehensive response.”
The Ministry is taking the following steps with immediate effect:
- Public health experts are tracing people who came into contact with each of the MERS-CoV patients.
- The dialysis unit at King Abdulaziz Hospital is being disinfected. To reduce overcrowding, the Ministry is moving up to 20 additional dialysis machines to King Faisal Hospital, which will allow the Ministry to divert some dialysis patients there from King Abdulaziz Hospital to King Faisal Hospital.
- King Abdulaziz Hospital will transfer MERS-CoV patients to King Faisal Hospital, the designated MERS-CoV hospital for Taif.
- The Ministry is moving a mobile laboratory to Taif to accommodate the need for additional testing and to expedite the delivery of test results.
- Both hospitals are transferring some of their intensive-care patients, when feasible, to Jeddah and Riyadh.
- Experts are assessing and monitoring infection-control measures at the MOH facilities. This includes fit testing for the face masks that healthcare workers wear while treating patients.
- The existing isolation ward for MERS-CoV patients at King Faisal Hospital is being split into two wards, one for suspected cases and one for confirmed cases.
- MOH dialysis units in Taif are adding an additional shift with the goal of preventing infection by reducing the number of patients who are being treated in each session.
The Minister was joined by Dr. Anees Sindi, Deputy Commander of the Ministry’s Command & Control Center and Dr. Abdullah Assiri, World Health Organization focal point and Assistant Deputy Minister for Preventive Health.
“The response to coronavirus continues to involve all those who can add value to our efforts to control the virus, including the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Minister Fakeih said. “There is no vaccine for MERS-CoV, but we can work together to reduce the number of infections. That’s why some of the greatest minds in Saudi Arabia – eminent professors and doctors from universities and hospitals across the Kingdom – are working with the Ministry to fight the spread of this virus.”
The Command & Control Center has conducted a comprehensive review of the operations at both Taif hospitals in recent days. The deputy commander toured both facilities on Saturday with the head of clinical operations at the Center. The head of the infection-control team has been working onsite in Taif since last week.
The ongoing collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture is expanding in Taif because some of the recent infections are thought to be associated with exposure to infected camels.
Please visit http://www.moh.gov.sa/ccc for recommendations on how to prevent MERS-CoV infection and the latest information about confirmed cases in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.