The Saudi Health Ministry has posted an English language press release this evening regarding their ongoing MERS outbreak in the nation’s capital city – a glass-half-full style account – one that emphasizes their response to the outbreak rather than dwelling on the factors that have led to this large (and growing) outbreak.
The numbers cited (53 cases, 17 deaths) refers only to Riyadh’s National Guard Hospital, and doesn’t reflect all of the cases reported over the past month (more than 80 from Riyadh alone).
While obviously crafted to reassure the public, that goal hinges far more on how many additional cases are announced over the next few days, than on any of the statements you’ll read below.
23 August 2015
The Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health today conducted the first of a series of detailed background briefings designed to provide specific and up-to-date information regarding MERS-CoV as part of its commitment to transparency and cooperation. Today’s briefing was focused on the recent outbreak in Riyadh’s National Guard hospital and the related containment actions to date.
The Ministry detailed both the specific actions taken to address the MERS-CoV cluster at the National Guard hospital, as well as actions taken to prevent flare-ups in other areas.
This outbreak tested several of the new procedures put in place recently by the Ministry to respond to such outbreaks and those systems have worked extremely well to date in containing the situation.
53 cases have been traced to the National Guard hospital infection. Of those, 32 patients remain hospitalized, 3 are in at-home isolation, 17 deaths, and 1 patient has already been discharged. More than 5,700 samples have been screened as part the tracking and tracing activity to monitor all potentially impacted persons.
There were 7 new cases confirmed yesterday. All of these patients are in stable condition.
Specific steps taken to respond to the outbreak include:
- Rapid Response team sent to National Guard hospital immediately after the infections were identified as a MERS-CoV outbreak. This team is comprised of leading experts in infections disease who supported the local medical teams in effective containment procedures.
- Field Epidemiology team deployed to the site to support on-site analysis and transmission specifics.
- Public Health Team is on-site supporting comprehensive tracking, tracing and testing of all persons in the contact circle of suspected and at-risk cases. The Ministry has sampled and tested more than 5,700 samples to support early identification among all at risk individuals and give them the “all clear” when they are identified as having no infection.
In addition, the Ministry worked with the National Guard staff to reduce streamline the facilities to better address the MERS-CoV issue specifically by deferring all elective admissions and procedures.
The Ministry of Health also detailed steps taken to bolster the preparedness of medical facilities across the country to prevent another outbreak, including:
- Deployed Infectious Disease Specialist teams to all Riyadh hospitals. This is meant to increase coverage surrounding the infection area and ensure our facilities are running all necessary safety protocols. The Minister of Health personally met with the directors of all Riyadh hospitals to lead the coordination.
- Established an open network connecting the medial teams throughout our national hospital network. This enables them to be fully connected in real time and able to monitor, communicate and learn from their colleagues about MERS-CoV activity.
Collectively, these containment steps have been highly effective. MERS-CoV is a tricky disease. It can crop up in unlikely places but these rapid response capabilities, built in coordination with global health partners such as the WHO, are essential tools in helping us to beat this challenge.
Responsibility for stopping the spread of MERS-CoV doesn’t end with healthcare workers. It is a responsibility shared by everyone to be aware and informed about the very basic preventative hygiene steps that can stop the spread of infection and save a life:
- Wash your hands with warm soapy water for 30 seconds
- Cough into your arm
- and Limit visitors to sick family members in the hospital.
Statistics and news regarding MERS-CoV are updated daily on the Ministry of Health website, www.moh.gov.sa and the latest prevention information can be accessed at www.wecanstopthis.com, where you can donate your own personal Twitter feed to broadcast MERS health bulletins to your circle of friends and loved ones.