An official source at the Ministry of Health said that the first case of the MERS coronavirus was recorded in the Sultanate on October 29th.
The source said that the patient has been early diagnosed by the central laboratory, which has been provided with reagents when the disease was recorded in the neighboring countries. The patient, 68 years old suffering from some chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and ischemic heart disease, is under intensified treatment at one of the referral hospitals.
The source said that 'The Ministry, in collaboration with World Health Organization, has been closely following the development of the disease in other countries.' He added in the five main pillars that include the monitoring and response, laboratories, infection control program, clinical treatment and communication plan, have been activated.
The Ministry of Health assured all citizens and residents that the number of cases recorded around the world is still limited and that the current condition does not require any ban on travel to any country of the world or required early tests at the entry posts or imposing any restriction on trade.
The Ministry provided some advice and guidelines to be followed by the society including maintaining personal and public hygiene, cleaning hands and following proper health practices while coughing and sneezing to avoid spread of infection to others. It also advised people against mixing with those suffering from upper respiratory tract infection, kissing, hugging, or shaking hands with them. It also advised them to cover their nose and mouth with a disposable tissue and dispose the used tissues immediately in wastebasket.
It is worth mentioning that the first case of Coronavirus was recorded in September 2012. Until date, WHO announced that 145 cases have been recorded.This is all too typical of the kind of report we get from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and now Oman: the bare minimum of details, some self-evident advice (Don't kiss that sneezer! Ditch that gooey tissue!), and the soothing croon that all is well (only 145 cases, and no mention of the 62 deaths).
Since MERS got going, I've read too many such accounts. Being in English, they're really designed for those living outside the hot zone who might have an interest in what's going on. The Saudi Ministry of Health abandoned its English-language MERS page for a month, and just today the page got a month's worth of English updates. That tells me how concerned the MOH is about keeping the world informed.
Not that the Arabic reports, accessible via Google Translate, are much better. We learn more about the ministry's hopes for divine intervention than about the actual symptoms that might make such intervention helpful.
For almost every government on the planet, the outbreak of a new disease is first a political problem, and only then a public health problem. No government wants to look like a bunch of schlemiels (least of all the Saudis) when its citizens start dying on them.
So during such potentially embarrassing outbreaks, governments first adopt the policy of Hawkeye Pierce in MASH: "Never let it be said I didn't do the least I could do."
And the least is what the Saudis and other Gulf states have enthusiastically done, in case after case.
You would think they had been paying attention when the Chinese disgraced themselves by playing dumb during the SARS outbreak—and when they redeemed themselves with the H7N9 outbreak last spring.
Since the first announcement on March 31, the Chinese health authorities have not only told us about their cases, but swamped every medical journal with smoking-hot research papers on those cases. I doubt that they're telling us everything, but they're telling us a lot.
But the MERS hot-zone countries are still in Hawkeye mode, issuing minimalist reports and mumbling "privacy" when asked for details. Occasionally a hot-zone doctor pops up, says something on Twitter he shouldn't have, and then vanishes.
Over a month ago, I posted an extremely civil note from the KSA MOH telling me, in effect, to get lost; the ministry was transparent, patients' rights and confidentiality were being respected, etc.
But the Saudis (and Qataris and Omanis) are far from transparent, and they don't seem to be telling even their international colleagues enough to help them figure out where the hell MERS comes from and how people are catching it. By contrast, the Chinese rapidly nailed the source of H7N9 in the poultry live markets, shut them down, and bought themselves (and us) some time.
So this is going to be one of those outbreaks that relies as much on the political environment as the virus's ability to get into the lower respiratory tract. In 1917-18, the US insistence on getting soldiers into Europe as fast as possible led to overcrowded trains, mess halls, and barracks—and thousands of soldiers died of flu before they ever saw a German, or even a trench. It got called "Spanish" because only neutral Spain had media that could talk about it.
I really hope that the MERS hot-zone countries can get through this without having to learn the lesson the hard way: The paranoid style is deeply unsanitary.