Health officials yesterday reassured residents that no new confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (nCoV) – recently renamed the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) – have been reported in the country since August last year when two Qataris were confirmed with the virus.
However, the officials admitted that biological samples of suspected cases were being checked at the Hamad Medical Corporation’s laboratory. Some 18 isolation rooms have been set apart at the Hamad General Hospital for keeping suspected cases.
“So far since last year, more than 200 samples from hospitalised patients have been tested and apart from the two confirmed Qatari cases in August 2012 there have been no more confirmed cases,” Supreme Council of Health’s Health Prevention and Communicable Diseases Control (HP&CDC) section manager Dr Mohamed al-Hajri told Gulf Times.
As of yesterday no deaths from the virus have occurred in Qatar. “The man who died the other day in Tunisia, after reportedly visiting Qatar and Saudi Arabia, was initially tested negative to the novel coronavirus,” he said.
There are also no patients presently under treatment or admitted to the intensive care units (ICU) due to the virus.
“On average around 10-12 ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) patients are admitted weekly to the adult and paediatric wards as well as ICUs. These patients and others meeting criteria would be screened for nCoV,” he explained.
To a question whether there is a move to identify suspected cases at all points of entry into Qatar, he said: “So far, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has not recommended any screening at the points of entry. However, we contacted our focal points there, which stressed to increase the monitoring of newcomers to Qatar and any suspected case should be directed to appropriate healthcare setting for evaluation and care.”
Also on whether the SCH will be placing a travel ban for Qatari citizens to Saudi Arabia, the official maintained that there was no reason or scientific evidence to stop travel to the region or refrain from going to perform Umrah in Saudi Arabia.
“We follow the WHO recommendations and so far the health body has not issued any travel restrictions to those countries affected.”
Dr al-Hajri also said that surveillance was going on in the community as well as among the hospitalised cases for other respiratory illnesses that are being caused by a wide range of bacteria and viruses such as ILIs (influenza like illnesses) as well as SARI (severe acute respiratory infections).
“No dramatic change has been observed in the SARI cases. As for seasonal flu, all patients with underlying co-morbidities are at an increased risk of developing the complications and influenza vaccine is available for them. So we encourage all people with underlying chronic diseases to get influenza vaccine at the beginning of winter season,” he said.
He said that the WHO case definitions for surveillance have been shared with all health facilities and any hospitalised cases with acute respiratory syndrome are being followed by the HP&CDC staff until proven not to be suffering from nCoV.
Many workshops were conducted for all healthcare workers in governmental and private sectors aside weekly alert on the international situation being distributed to all focal points, which numbered more than 190.
According to the WHO, a total of 44 people worldwide have now contracted the disease and some 23 people have died.
The latest of the deaths was a 65-year-old French man who claimed to have been in Dubai, but later died in the northern city of Lille. He was the first confirmed case in France. Doctors are treating a second man, who has shared a room with the dead person.
Source : Qatar Chronicle
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