JEDDAH: P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR
Published — Saturday 12 April 2014
Last update 13 April 2014 12:25 am
The Ministry of Health should launch special emergency procedures to stop the spread of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus by setting up special quarantine facilities to treat suspected and infected people, says an expert.
“In light of the new outbreak of MERS cases we have to change the emergency plan and set up special camps to receive and isolate suspected cases,” said Mohammed Al-Harbi, a specialist at King Abdul Aziz Hospital, which saw the death of a male nurse from the virus.
Al-Harbi said the ministry has three options: To establish an isolation camp for all patients in one place; have isolation wards in every hospital; or set aside an entire hospital specifically to treat MERS cases.
“Taking suspected cases into hospitals in a haphazard manner will only lead to the spread of the disease,” he said.
He said MERS was initially found among the elderly and those suffering from chronic diseases but was now affecting young people.
“This is a dangerous sign,” the specialist said.
His comments follow the announcement of new cases of MERS infections, despite the health ministry’s efforts to sterilize emergency wards at King Fahd and King Abdul Aziz hospitals in the city.
According to a local daily, the head of a medical department at King Fahd Hospital has been affected, while a Pakistani doctor suspected to have the virus has been reported at King Abdul Aziz Hospital.
It also reported the death of a 40-year-old Saudi man at a private hospital on Thursday, bringing the total number of MERS deaths to three in Jeddah and 67 in the Kingdom.
According to informed sources, the number of visitors to King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah declined by 55 percent after reports of people there infected with the virus.
Saudi nurses have meanwhile urged the Health Ministry to take steps to ensure their protection.
They said the ministry was biased toward doctors, ignoring their plight.
MBC’s “Bidun Shak” (Without Doubt) talk show hosted by Mohammed Fahad Al-Harthi, editor in chief of Arab News, addressed the issue in its latest episode.
Speaking during the forum, Health Minister Abdullah Al-Rabeeah said he supports nurses’ right to get compensation for dealing with MERS and other infectious diseases.
“I will take up the matter with relevant authorities to get your rights,” the minister said.
Khaled Mirghalani, spokesman of the ministry, said the King Fahd Hospital emergency ward has been reopened and all medical staff members had returned to work.
One Arabic daily, however, reported that there was a noticeable absence of staff after the head of a medical department became infected.
Deputy Health Minister Mohammad Khashim said the ministry has isolated six people that tested positive for the virus.
He said 90 percent of coronavirus carriers do not show symptoms, with only laboratory tests being able to make accurate diagnoses.
“All tested samples that came back positive have been published on the ministry’s website,” he said, stressing that the ministry’s preventive programs are linked to the World Health Organization.