On the #MERS hashtag, more and more tweets are in Bahasa Indonesia; evidently MERS is drawing more attention there. Via the Jakarta Globe: With No MERS Vaccine Available, Ministry Urges Flu Jabs.
Health authorities in Indonesia have urged pilgrims to get flu vaccines amidst growing fears of the spread of the Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, which originated in Saudi Arabia.
“We still don’t have a specific treatment for MERS because there is no vaccine for the infection, but we do have a flu vaccine, and it is advisable for pilgrims to be vaccinated,” Deputy Health Minister Ali Ghufron Mukti said in Jakarta on Friday. “Even though it is just an alternative, this vaccine can boost the immunity.”
Ghufron said that as of Friday there had been no confirmed MERS cases in Indonesia, even though two people in Riau and Bali who had just returned from performing the umrah, or minor hajj, in Saudi Arabia had died from MERS-like symptoms.
The Health Ministry has conducted tests on 48 people recently back from Saudi Arabia and the results all came back negative, while a further case in Medan, North Sumatra, is still being investigated.
Ghufron said he believed the tests conducted by Indonesian medical workers were accurate because they were using the latest devices and testing standards.
Ghufron said that in many of the reported cases of suspected MERS, the patients happened to have existing medical conditions in which the symptoms were similar to the flu-like MERS symptoms.
However, he emphasized that the threat from the deadly viral infection should not be taken lightly, and noted that hundreds of thousands of Indonesians were set to go to Saudi Arabia for the umrah and hajj later this year.
Ghufron said that despite growing fear of a MERS pandemic, the Health Ministry had not imposed a travel ban to Saudi Arabia. The government has not even issued a travel warning, and has limited itself to distributing notification cards to pilgrims.
“We haven’t issued a travel warning because even the World Health Organization has not issued an advisory and there has been no positive case here,” he said.
However, countries like Egypt and Palestine have issued warnings against traveling to Saudi Arabia. Egypt has gone as far as recommending its citizens put off going on the pilgrimage until next year.
Ghufron defended the government against accusations that it had been slow in reacting to the threat from the disease. He said the ministry had intensified surveillance activities by reactivating thermal body scanners at airports and seaports and sent notification letters to health clinics.
Concerns about the virus reaching Indonesia spread when a man died from high fever and difficulty breathing in Riau on Sunday, shortly after returning from Saudi Arabia. The Health Ministry could not confirm if he was infected with MERS because the family refused to have him tested.
Detik.com reported on Friday that four more people who recently returned from Saudi Arabia had been admitted to Adam Malik General Hospital in Medan for fever, coughing and respiratory problems. Doctors are still waiting for test results to see if any of them were infected with MERS.
A man died in Bali after returning from Saudi Arabia last month, but his doctors said he had long suffered from a chronic lung illness.