DHA asks travellers to maintain good hygiene

The warning comes after a 68-year-old Emirati patient was admitted to an unnamed hospital after showing symptoms of Mers.


Asma Ali Zain

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Published: Tue 24 Dec 2013, 1:16 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 6:43 PM

As winter holidays start in the UAE, experts have reminded travellers to adopt good hygiene measures to prevent respiratory diseases, following reports of a new case of the Sars-like virus — the first in Dubai — in an elderly patient on Saturday.

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) said a 68-year-old Emirati patient was admitted to an unnamed hospital after showing symptoms of the new Coronavirus (CoV) Mers. He is undergoing treatment in the intensive care unit, it was reported on Saturday. It said the man is also suffering from diabetes and chronic kidney failure. The DHA said it is coordinating with the Ministry of Health and other authorities and has taken precautionary measures in line with international recommendations. It is conducting investigations to ascertain who the patient was in contact with before being admitted. The case brings the total number of diagnosed Mers cases to 165 globally and seven in the UAE.

Dr Salwan Ibrahim, Medical Director, Middle East for International SOS, a non-governmental organisation dealing in global health and pandemic issues, asked travellers to step up their focus on hygiene.

“This is the seventh case reported in the UAE so far. Overall, (however) the risk to travellers remains low,” said Dr Salwan.

Since the outbreak of Mers in September last year, two Emiratis have died as a result of the illness, including a 73-year-old, who died in a German hospital.

Dr Salwan said that although it is uncertain how the CoV is transmitted, travellers can prevent respiratory illnesses with good hygiene like washing hands frequently; not touching the face; keeping distance from people who cough, sneeze or appear sick; avoiding unnecessary direct contact with live animals and their environment; and ensuring any food or drink for consumption is safe — thoroughly washed, peeled, boiled or cooked through.

“Anyone who develops a fever and respiratory symptoms (such as cough), which are more than mild, should seek medical attention and mention their travel history, especially if they have recently been in the Middle East,” added Dr Salwan. “There is very limited information on how the sporadic infections occur. The virus may have an animal origin as investigations have shown it is closely related to a virus found in bats.”


What are CoV?

In humans, these viruses cause respiratory illness ranging from the common cold to Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). They spread from one person to another through infected respiratory droplets. The sick person expels these when they cough, sneeze, or talk. Others can get the disease via contact with these contaminated droplets.

CoV can also cause diarrhoeal illness, with the virus present in the stool. Others can get the disease if they accidentally ingest it from contaminated hands and objects. There are no specific medications to treat CoV. (Information courtesy: International SOS)

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