Around 300 suspected cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) - Coronavirus have been found in Qatar, but tested negative, a senior official said yesterday.
However, as the number of MERS cases have increased, mostly in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, a team of experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) are scheduled to visit Qatar to find if there are any evidence for the virus spreading here, said Director of Public Health Department at the Supreme Council of Health (SCH), Dr Mohammed Al Thani, speaking at a symposium for healthcare professionals on MERS at the Doha Sheraton.
“We have checked 300 samples for the infection and all were negative, so we are still checking for more suspected cases. We have the kits to check the samples and if there is any positive case, we will still have to confirm it at an international testing centre either in England or Holland to make a confirmation,” said Dr Al Thani.
“We have a WHO group coming here to help us establish whether the source of the infection is here in the country or if it’s coming from outside, from Saudi Arabia.”
“Nobody is sure how the transmission is happening; we are not aware of the source of the virus yet and why certain families are affected and others are not,” Dr Al Thani added.
Hamad Medical Corporation together with the SCH has set an action plan to handle the situation if the virus spreads in Qatar.
A hotline too will be introduced soon for the public to make inquiries about the MERS virus and public have been requested not to panic about any rumours regarding the virus as the SCH would update if there is any incident of the disease spreading.
The action plan to handle a situation if MERS virus is spread in the country has been designed to minimise the risk of it spreading further, especially among healthcare workers.
“We had two cases and no further cases have been reported but we don’t know what will happen in future, because the summer is on its way and many people are going for Umrah,” said Senior Consultant of Corporate Infection Control and Prevention, Dr Jamila Alkhowaiter.
“The action plan will help separate any suspected confirmed cases and even minimise the risk, especially of healthcare workers,” she added.
Staff at the HMC has been trained and made aware of how to handle patients infected with MERS virus, she explained.
Around 33 staff was exposed to the first patient diagnosed with MERS at the emergency department, Intensive Care Unit and ambulance service, while 14 were exposed to the second patient. Blood samples of healthcare workers were checked and the findings were negative.
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