MOHAMMED RASOOLDEEN & MUHAMMAD AL-SULAMI | Arab News Staff
Published — Thursday 7 August 2014
Last update 7 August 2014 7:54 am
RIYADH/JEDDAH: The Saudi man who was suspected of being infected with the Ebola virus died on Wednesday in Jeddah, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said.
Ibrahim Al-lZahrani, a businessman in his 40s, passed away at the King Fahd Hospital, where he was admitted Monday night after showing symptoms of viral hemorrhagic fever.
Preliminary testing at a specialized laboratory was negative for Dengue virus. Additional tests were carried out to determine if the source of the infection is yellow fever, Alkhumra or another virus.
The MOH has submitted samples of the patient to an international reference laboratory in the United States as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Additional samples are being sent to an accredited laboratory in Germany.
Preparations for burial will be performed at the hospital in keeping with Islamic religious practices and international guidelines for patients suspected of having an infectious disease like Ebola.
MOH officials have been in direct and continuous contact with the family of the patient. Public health experts began retracing the patient’s travels upon notification of his symptoms and travel history. They are currently monitoring the people he came into contact with for any symptoms associated with viral hemorrhagic fever.
Saudi Arabia announced in April that it was not issuing visas for the 2014 Haj and Umrah to pilgrims from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea due to these countries suffering from an Ebola outbreak. Medical workers are monitoring travelers at airports and seaports across the Kingdom.
Pilgrims from Ebola-endemic countries will be identified at disembarkation points in the Kingdom. The ministry has fielded special teams at air, land and sea entry points to identify pilgrims who are suffering from the disease.
The ministry has been carefully following online instructions issued by the WHO on the issue. The ministry also sporadically issues quarantine requirements to Saudi missions abroad.
Appeal for help
Meanwhile, the WHO on Monday appealed for contributions to combat the deadly Ebola disease in West Africa, saying hundreds of doctors, nurses, health staff, and materials are needed in the region as soon as possible.
WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said an emergency response will be implemented this week after being agreed by the chief of the agency and the presidents of the three most affected countries Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.
WHO Secretary-General Margaret Chan and the three West African leaders agreed on an Ebola disease response plan involving three co-centric rings in the most-affected areas along their common border, Hartl said.
They want to institute emergency measures to encourage people to stay in those areas and not leave, to control the spread of the disease to other areas, Hartl said , adding that his organization would increase supplies of food and other benefits into the areas so that people can stay there.
As a result of the plan, the UN agency has launched an appeal for $100 million from donor countries. “ We need many more contributions from the international community, from governments, from NGOs (non-governmental organizations), academic institutions, from anyone who can provide us with doctors, nurses, and other public-health staff, Hartl said.
An Ebola outbreak has been ongoing in Sierra Leone since May 2014 and has also affected Liberia and Guinea. More than 825 people have died to date, making this the largest outbreak of Ebola in history.
At least three Americans have been infected, two of whom are health care workers at an Ebola clinic.
About the virus
Ebola is a severe and often fatal disease that affects and kills up to 90 percent of humans infected with the virus.The Ebola virus is passed to humans through close contact with animals, such as fruit bats, monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees, carrying the virus.
Infected patients are highly contagious and pass the virus on to others who come in close contact with them either by exposure to objects that have been contaminated with infected blood or bodily fluids or through direct contact with the infected person’s blood or bodily fluids.
The incubation period for Ebola viral hemorrhagic fever is typically one week, during which time, the infected person will suffer from an array of symptoms such as fever, chills, back pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. As the virus progresses, those infected will experience a rash over their entire body, swelling of the eyes and genital area, bleeding from the mouth, nose, eyes, ears, and rectum, followed by shock, coma and death in many cases.