Oman tests over 200 suspected MERS cases, no spread of deadly virus detected

Muscat - 

Over 200 cases of suspected Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) infection have been tested in Oman so far with none resulting in a positive detection of the deadly new virus, according to a senior Ministry of Health (MoH) official.

“The Centre for Public Health Laboratory (CPHL) in Oman has tested 206 samples for suspected MERS cases between October 2012 and July this year,” Dr Idris al Abaidani, director of the Department of Communicable Disease Surveillance and Control at MoH’s Directorate General of Health Affairs, said.

“All the results showed negative for MERS coronavirus. No confirmed case has been detected in the sultanate so far.”

Saudi Arabia has faced the brunt of the MERS crisis so far, accounting for 39 out of the 46 reported deaths from a total of 94 cases worldwide. Neighbouring UAE has recorded six cases and one death. Both the MoH and World Health Organization (WHO) have confirmed that there hasn’t been a single MERS infection in Oman.

Dr Idris al Abaidani

Dr Idris al Abaidani

Dr Abaidani also said MoH has intensified efforts to detect and prevent the spread of MERS in the country with further plans to enhance post-Hajj surveillance. “We are monitoring all MERS activities in depth by daily monitoring the global situation and especially in Middle East countries in coordination with WHO, the Saudi Ministry of Health and GCC,” said Dr Abaidani.

In response to a question on whether there are any plans to monitor suspected cases travelling to and from Saudi Arabia at airports and other border checkposts, Dr Abaidani said, “WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restriction.”

However, 'post-Hajj surveillance will be intensified', he assured. Dr Abaidani said that GCC members have concurred with Saudi Arabia’s official travel advisory and urged high-risk groups, such as the elderly and chronically ill, as well as children and pregnant women, to avoid performing Umrah and Hajj this year. “If anyone [from Oman] travelling to and from Saudi Arabia develops acute respiratory infection with fever, they must seek medical advice in their governorate.”

The MoH has also established a clinical management task force to prepare guidelines for dealing with suspected and confirmed cases and develop a clear mechanism for treatment. Dr Abaidani said that in the absence of any vaccination for the virus as of now, supportive healthcare is the only treatment for positive cases.

“The MoH has intensified the effort to encounter this [MERS] virus in Oman by strengthening the five pillars - surveillance and response; clinical management; infection prevention and control; laboratory; and risk communication plan.”

Guidelines on how to deal with suspected and confirmed cases, as well as a mechanism to deal with the contacts of positive cases (in case they arise), have been circulated among healthcare workers in Oman, he said.

 

THE NUMBERS

Country           Cases               Deaths             Fatality

Saudi Arabia       74                    39                    53%

UAE                   6                      1                      17%

Qatar                 2                      1                      50%

Jordan                2                      2                      100%

Tunisia               2                      0                      0%

UK                    3                      2                      67%

France               2                      1                      50%

Italy                  3                      0                      0%

TOTAL               94                    46                    50%

Sources: CDC, US/WHO

Fatality rate extremely high: WHO

Dr Abdullah Saleh Assaedi

Dr Abdullah Saleh Assaedi

 

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Oman representative has dubbed the fatality rate so far from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) as ‘extremely high’ even as studies suggested that the new coronavirus could turn out to be deadlier than its predecessor the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

MERS has caused 46 deaths so far from the total of 94 recorded cases worldwide, which gives it a fatality rate of nearly 50 per cent. SARS, which surfaced in Asia in 2003, resulted in 775 deaths of the total 8,273 people infected with a fatality rate of nine per cent. “Usually a fatality rate of ten to 20 per cent [for any such virus outbreak] is a cause for great concern. So the MERS’ fatality rate of 50 per cent is unfortunately extremely high,” Dr Abdullah Saleh Assaedi, WHO representative in the sultanate, said.

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