Via Arab News: MERS scare ‘overblown’. Excerpt:
An expert at the Ministry of Health has asserted that the threat posed by the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) to the lives of citizens and residents in Saudi Arabia is exaggerated. She added that the number of fatalities due to MERS have amounted to over 133 in the Kingdom over a period of two years, while thousands die from complications caused by ordinary flu around the world every year.
Each year in the United States up to 20 percent of the population gets the flu; more than 250,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications and 36,000 to 50,000 people of all ages die from flu-related causes, said Dr. Batool Mohammed Suliman Ali, infectious disease consultant at King Saud Hospital, quoting a report issued by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Speaking to reporters, she urged the public to take precautions against MERS-CoV. “We should keep away from infected individuals, eat and sleep well, drink more water, avoid crowded areas, avoid visiting hospitals and avoid performing Umrah during this period,” she said.
Although camels are suspected to be the primary source of infection for humans, the exact routes of direct or indirect exposure remain unknown, Ali said. However, she advised the public not to consume camel products and avoid contacting sick animals. She also urged people suffering from high fever, coughing or sneezing to consult with their family doctor to rule out a MERS infection.
Canadian educated Ali said there is a possibility that people would develop antibodies against MERS, leading to a fall in the number of deaths. “We hope and pray for that to happen quickly so that MERS would become history.” She indicated that many people have recovered from the virus but the media has not shed enough publicity on these cases.
Giving an overview of MERS deaths across the Kingdom, Ali said its victims were aged between seven months to 85 years. “The majority of the victims were patients suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart ailments, renal failure and severe asthma,” she added.
Ali said hospitals have started limiting visiting hours as part of efforts to combat the disease. “When people come to visit a MERS patient we ask them to wear special clothes, masks and gloves like we do to protect against the virus. Around 50 percent of confirmed cases were infected through contact with patients,” she explained.
When asked what steps should be followed when a family member is infected by the virus, Ali said: “The infected person should be isolated and the family should inform the ministry so that it could send doctors to check other members of the family in order to make sure they are not infected. People without symptoms will be kept on observation for 24 hours.”
Ali said the sudden increase in MERS cases last month might be due to weather changes and humidity.