Dear Mr. Kilian
Thank you for your recent communication to HE Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah, Minister of Health in respect to the dissemination of information in respect to the MERS-CoV virus. Your comments have been noted positively and have been taken into consideration.
It is the policy of the Ministry of Health, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to be extremely transparent within the norms of being culturally sensitive and respecting patients’ rights and confidentiality. The Ministry of Health has been sharing all the items stated in your letter with WHO on all cases but we have been sensitive not to stigmatize affected individuals and families by disclosing too much information. Over the last year we had patients and families complain to us about intrusion of their privacy by media reporters who recognized their identity through the transparency of reporting their case details. In addition to transparency with the media the Saudi MoH have released more than 20 genome sequences of MERS-CoV virus on gene bank which is freely accessible by all scientists and published many articles in high impact peer reviewed journals.
We would also like to draw your kind attention to the collaborative press releases as well as individual appearances before the media of the Minister of Health and senior members of his staff, all members of the National Infectious Diseases/Infection Control Scientific Committee which represents top international experts in their field of Infectious Diseases, Infection Control, Preventative Medicine and Public Health issues, as well as the international collaborative bodies such as WHO, CDC and several universities as previously mentioned.
As you aware the disease is not limited to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and there are several countries which have the disease and that do not have ongoing scientific surveillance and transparency that the Kingdom has when dealing with Public Health issues in a scientific, transparent and rational manner as well as balancing the scientific rigor and reassuring the public.
The Ministry of Health is ranked as No. 1 within the Government for the use of its portal by the public using all official channels including the use of social media such as You Tube, Face Book & Twitter.
The MoH’s Public Health Department has been working in collaboration with esteemed international bodies including WHO, FAO, PHE, CDC, NIH, Columbia University, University College of London, EcoHealth Alliance….etc., in respect to this virus since its emergence in 2012.
We note for your kind information a few of the ongoing scientific research and pattern of this virus:
Over 170 – 200 samples are processed per day from patients fitting the case definition kingdom wide. The pattern of the diseases has been consistent and has not changed and can be summarized as follows:
· Sporadic community cases – with one single case with no transmission of any kind.
· Clustering – community/household with more than one person affected at a time.
· Nosocomial clustering – following community introductions.
(Based upon scientific evidence and articles published to date about recent clusters).
Thus far and after 17 months since the start of the MERS-CoV outbreak there have been 132 cases (globally) with 108 being reported in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. MERS- CoV is currently in its 16th month with 58 deaths reported (47 from the Kingdom). This is in contrast to SARS which affected more than 8000 cases in less than 7 months and had overall 10% mortality.
You will appreciate that all information is to be accurate and is disseminated in such a way that it does not get misinterpreted by the general public.
We thank you again for your positive comments.
On behalf of the Office of the Minister of Health
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia