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HEALTH LAUNCHES AWARENESS CAMPAIGN ON MERS Saudi cases pass 400...over 100 dead

KUWAIT CITY, May 5: Eighteen more people in Saudi Arabia have contracted the potentially deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), bringing the number of cases in the kingdom to 414, its health ministry said on Monday, more than a quarter of whom have died. The new cases, reported in the past 48 hours, were in the capital Riyadh, the coastal city of Jeddah, and the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, the ministry said on its website.

The spread of the disease is a concern for Saudi Arabia which will host millions of foreign pilgrims in July in Makkah and Madinah during Islam’s fasting month of Ramadan. Millions more are expected in October for the annual Haj pilgrimage. So far 115 of the people in Saudi Arabia who contracted the virus have died, the ministry said. Many of those affected have been foreign health workers.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that Jordan had reported a new case of the MERS virus. The 28- year-old man from Saudi Arabia is relative of someone previously reported to have MERS, it said. Countries including Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Tunisia as well as several countries in Europe have also reported MERS cases since the virus emerged.

On Monday Egypt said it was investigating whether a 60-year-old woman had died of MERS. Last week the United States said it had its first confirmed case of the disease in a man who had recently been in Saudi Arabia. Egypt said it had its first case, also in a man who had been in the kingdom. Infections of MERS in Saudi Arabia, where it was discovered two years ago, have more than doubled since the start of April, but the total number of deaths has increased at a slower rate.

MERS is a form of coronavirus like the more deadly SARS. It can cause fever, coughing, shortness of breath and pneumonia but it is not easy to transmit between people.

The WHO has not advised any travel restrictions for Saudi Arabia. In view of the rising coronavirus-related deaths in Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Health in Kuwait is taking all precautionary measures to prevent the disease from entering the country through awareness campaigns. The Infection Control Directorate of the Ministry of Health, today, organized an ‘Open Day’ at the Amiri Hospital near the reception area to highlight the importance of hand hygiene to help prevent the spread of antimicrobial resistant germs. Several volunteers were on hand to demonstrate the proper use of alcohol rubs or hand wash during the event which was held under the title ‘Clean Hands, Save Lives’. The campaign highlighted the five moments for hand hygiene, particularly while visiting patients at a hospital Before touching or approaching a patient, hands should be cleaned to protect the patient against harmful germs carried on the person’s hands.

Clean the hands immediately before performing a clean/aspetic procedure to protect the patient against harmful germs, including the patient’s own, from entering his/her body. Clean the hands immediately after an exposure risk to body fluids (and after removal of gloves) to protect yourself and the healthcare environment from harmful patient germs.

Clean hands after touching a patient and his/her immediate surroundings, when leaving the patient’s side to protect yourself and the healthcare environment from harmful patient germs. Clean hands after touching any object or furniture in the patient’s immediate surroundings when leaving - even if the patient has not been touched to protect yourself and the health care environment from harmful patient germs.

The organizers of the campaign said the Ministry of Health is taking all precautionary measures to protect the lives of the citizens and residents. Meanwhile, the Department of Surgery of the Al-Amiri Hospital is organizing a three-day workshop (May 4 to May 6) on Laparoscopic Upper G.I. and Revisional Bariatric at the Thunayan Al-Ghanim Auditorium under the title CME 10 Points. The guest speakers from Brazil are Dr Alcides Jose Branco Filho and Dr Marcelo De Paula Loureier. The workshop is being organized by Dr Shehab Grool, Dr Saod Al Subaie, Dr Taleb Jumaa, Dr Ahmad Al-Mulla, Dr Salman Al-Sabah, Dr Mohammed Morsi and Dr Waleed Buhaimed. All workers at the Indiana hospital where the first US case of the often deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome was confirmed last week have tested negative for the virus, officials at Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana, said on Monday. “We had about 50 employees who had contact with the patient.

Every person who had contact with (him) has been tested, and they all have tested negative,” Alan Kumar, Chief Medical Information Officer at Community Hospital told a joint news conference. Health officials said they will continue to monitor and test people who had close contact with the MERS patient, who fell ill after traveling from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he lives and works, to visit family in the United States.

About three-quarters of the people who came in contact with the patient during his travel have been contacted by the Centers for Disease Control and local health departments, said Daniel Feikin of the CDC.

Meanwhile, the Indiana patient’s condition continues to improve. He no longer requires supplemental oxygen and is expected to be released from the hospital soon, Kumar said. State and federal health officials on Friday confirmed the first US case of MERS, which presents symptoms similar to influenza and kills about a third of those infected. Most MERS fatalities have been among the elderly and the vast majority of cases have occurred in Saudi Arabia. Egyptian authorities are investigating whether a 60-year-old woman who has died in the city of Port Said had the SARS-like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). If confirmed, it would be Egypt’s first death from the virus.

The woman had recently returned from an Islamic pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, where the MERS coronavirus emerged in 2012, Helmi el-Efni, a Health Ministry official from the city on the Suez Canal, said on Monday.


By: Paul Francis X. Fernandes Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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