An editorial in Arab News: MERS battle being won but not over. Excerpt:
While scientists study the virus itself, researchers are in the field, trying to trace back the path of infection with each recorded case. This painstaking and sometimes difficult detective work will not only identify the point at which the disease was passed from one to the other. It will also enable scientists to see how the condition was transmitted and perhaps just as importantly, how it was not transmitted to other individuals.
Having learned its lesson through the death of brave doctors and nurses unwittingly treating MERS patients, the Kingdom has taken the necessary precautions to protect them. It is now far better able to recognize the symptoms of the condition in each of its stages. This, however, does not apply to other countries from which pilgrim will come to perform Haj. It must be hoped that this year there will be more than the normal health screening and care for pilgrims.
Not only should the authorities be on the lookout for MERS itself, they will hopefully be mounting a public information campaign aimed at visitors. This needs to spell out the initial symptoms, what actions to take in seeking medical help and, every bit as importantly, how to avoid the danger of passing on the infection to friends or family.
One of the very worst scenarios is for people to flee a community where a case has been reported. This only serves to increase the risk of spreading a virus to areas where no one was expecting it to appear and no preparations have been made.
Maybe also there is a job to be done here in the Kingdom, in terms of public information. Public reaction has followed what seemed to be a classic path. In the early days of the MERS outbreak, there was general disinterest. No one was inclined to take the danger very seriously.
Gradually, however, as news of deaths came in, particularly of the medical professionals, a rising tide of alarm was unleashed. Even though the authorities sought to allay public concern, news of fresh infections and deaths began to produce deep concern in some quarters.
The swing from complacency to panic, though both reactions were unjustified, has been quite notable. Now, however, people may be tempted to take the news that the rate of new MERS infections is decreasing, as a sign that the emergency is over. It most certainly is not. As the WHO has pointed out, extreme caution is still required. But hopefully the public, guided by a new official information campaign, can strike a reasonable balance in their attitude to the condition.
While scientists and researchers are working flat out to combat MERS, the man in the street can play his part by behaving in a measured and sensible manner. No more extreme reactions. MERS is not the deadly plague that had been feared, but it nevertheless remains a very dangerous virus, which is extremely difficult to treat in those who are infected. Common sense, precautions and vigilance for signs of condition are now the priority.