Health workers in UAE pick up deadly MERS coronavirus bug
A doctor from the Arab Hygiene Council has revealed that four patients with the potentially deadly MERS coronavirus in the UAE are all health workers.
Dr Muhammad Halwani, who is based in Saudi Arabia, said that four people diagnosed in Abu Dhabi a week ago and two new cases in Saudi Arabia were all people who had close contact with other victims of the respiratory disease. One of the new victims caught it from a family member.
Halwani told 7DAYS: “Since it was first diagnosed in March 2012, 90 people have contracted it worldwide, six of them in the UAE. There were two at the beginning and now another four.”
MERS - or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome - has been likened to the SARS coronavirus that swept Asia in 2003, killing around nine per cent of those infected.
However, Halwani said MERS is different to SARS, adding: “A SARS sufferer could infect three or four people at the same time with coughs or sneezes. With MERS, mostly the patients are only infected with direct contact.
“Usually when a virus does not infect a lot of people it is more fatal. With SARS around 10 per cent of people died. With MERS there is a 51 per cent death rate.”
The World Health Organisation is drawing up advice for travellers to Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage in October with millions expected to congregate. Halwani said: “Older people are more susceptible and there is advice that the elderly should not travel this year to avoid exposure.
“Also hygiene is important and people should wear masks in crowded areas. Hand hygiene is very important and people should carry anti-bacterial soaps and hand sanitisers and use them.” He added: “Other gatherings, like going to the mosque or iftar, is not the same. It is not so crowded.”
Cases have also been diagnosed in the UK, France, Jordan, Qatar and Germany.