Mers: WHO team suspects breach in hospital protocol Filed on June 7, 2014

The preliminary results of the five-day mission indicated that the cases in the UAE do not show evidence of sustained human-to-human infection.

The upsurge of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) cases in Abu Dhabi in April appears to have been caused by a combination of factors, including a breach in infection prevention and control measures in healthcare settings, a fact-finding team from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to the UAE concluded on Friday.

The preliminary results of the five-day mission indicated that the cases in the UAE do not show evidence of sustained human-to-human infection, however, there was a gap in active surveillance and an increase in community-acquired cases.

The team from the WHO and technical partners from the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) also visited the hospital in Abu Dhabi to which two-thirds of the country’s cases can be traced in order to review the epidemiological investigation and assess the infection prevention and control measures that have been applied.

“We are impressed by the amount of data and information generated during the investigation of Mers cases by the UAE to help better understand Mers- CoV,” said Peter Ben Embarek, WHO team leader.

“This knowledge is of utmost importance to the rest of the world to better discover the source of the virus and the routes of transmissions from animals to humans.”

The team consisted of six experts in coordination, epidemiology, infection prevention and control, food safety, human-animal interface and risk communication. It assessed the risk posed by the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus or Mers-CoV in the country.

WHO was invited by the UAE health authorities to review the current situation after an upsurge in Mers-CoV infections in April. They also met with Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Owais, Minister of Health.

During the mission, the team had extensive meetings with experts from the Health Authority Abu Dhabi, Dubai Health Authority and the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority.

The team also evaluated the work done on investigating possible exposure routes, transmission patterns, and the clinical situation.

“The UAE health authorities have been following up diligently on the cases including repeated laboratory testing to check when cases have been cleared of the virus. This data will make an important contribution to the risk assessment and to guide the health response internationally,” Ben Embarek said. WHO recommends that the UAE health authorities to continue to investigate Mers, including the source of infection, and share new information as it becomes available including the role of animals in the spread of the disease.

WHO also stressed the importance of participating in multi-country case control studies from both the human health and animal health perspective.

Last week, the health minister told the Federal National Council (FNC) that Mers was under control in the country. For the first time, he officially released figures saying that a total of 67 cases had been documented in the UAE with nine deaths.

Globally, as of June 4, 681 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with Mers-CoV have officially been reported to WHO including 204 deaths, mostly from neighbouring Saudi Arabia.


Asma Ali Zain

Associated with KT for 15 years. Covers health issues, Pakistan community, human interest stories as well as general topics for daily news or features.

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