MOH News
Dr. Asiri: 141 Coronavirus Cases in the Kingdom till Now
08 January 2014
Assistant Deputy Minister for Preventive Health, Dr. Abdullah bin Mefarreh Asiri, said that the number of infections with the Novel Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has reached 141 confirmed cases in Saudi Arabia, adding that 57 of whom passed away.
Meanwhile, Dr. Asiri highlighted that the Ministry of Health (MOH) deals with the infected cases through applying medical policies and procedures that aim at preventing the transmission of diseases to the medical staff and maintaining patient's safety inside the health facilities. He went on adding that the mechanism applied in dealing with the infections depends on the uniform definition of the suspected cases which has been circulated to all service providers.
“When a case is suspected, a report is submitted to the public health departments and a throat swab is taken and then sent to one of the four reference laboratories authorized by the ministry to fight the virus,” Asiri said, adding that the patient remains inside the health facility until the results are known.
Dr. Asiri highlighted that the isolation procedures include placing the patient in a room with one bed, preventing or reducing the number of visits, and wearing protective clothes and a mask when examining any case. “The laboratory takes 6 to 12 hours to examine the virus in the normal conditions,” Asiri said, noting that the results are sent once the analysis is finished.
In the same context, Dr. Asiri underscored that if the sample is positive, the facility, which had reported the case, gets briefed on the result before the isolation procedures are applied as previously mentioned. Also, the public health department in the health area starts reporting the case; that is to be added to examining the contacts in the patient's family and in the health facility. It also examines all close contacts of the patient in the last two weeks. Throat swabs are taken from all contacts. If the sample of any is positive, procedures mentioned above will be applied.
Dr. Asiri added that if the sample is negative, the case is examined on a daily basis for two weeks since the last date of contacting. If any respiratory symptoms are noticed, throat swabs are sent back to laboratories. Meanwhile, the teams of public health carry out an expanded survey to all positive cases. The survey includes identifying the potential risk factors, such as whether the case was in contact with other patients or animals or birds in the surrounding environment. If any of these factors is existent, the appropriate actions are taken, such as examining and taking samples from the contacted animals in coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture.
“If a patient with the Novel Coronavirus is suffering from pneumonia, two antiviral drugs, which had excellent results with SARS and Coronavirus, will be ordered to the patient,” Dr. Asiri said, adding that the clinical indicators will be closely followed up to notice the effectiveness of the treatment.
In the same vein, Dr. Asiri pointed out that respiratory tract infections generally increase in the winter, but the Kingdom has not recorded, thankfully, any increase in the number of Coronavirus infections during the winter of the last year. Dr. Asiri expected that the next winter will not witness any increase in the number of infected cases, Allah willing, because this virus, according to recent reports, does not have the ability to move rapidly among humans. Dr. Asiri stressed that the MOH will go on with monitoring different cases of pneumonia, examining respiratory tract infections such as influenza and identifying the kind of viruses spread in the community.
Moreover, he explained that the ministry advises the Saudi citizens to take necessary precautions in order not to catch respiratory tract infections. This includes closing the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing to prevent respiratory droplets from volatilizing; that is to be added to taking care of hands cleanness especially when catching common cold or contacting with infected cases. The ministry also advises the elderly and those suffering from diabetes, kidney failure, cardiac and other chronic diseases to take the vaccine of the seasonal influenza.
Dr. Asiri highlighted that the ministry applies accredited mechanisms when dealing with the Novel Coronavirus, adding that as part of MOH's plans to fight the virus, it pays special attention to detecting and isolating the infected cases, as well as examining and isolating the contacts at home and at the health facility till the incubation period is over. If it is found that the patient has contacted with certain animals, the ministry coordinates with the ministry of agriculture to take the required samples from those animals and isolate them until they are completely cured. Dr. Asiri has praised also MOH's efforts of health education, which are reckoned as the cornerstone in dealing with this virus, Allah willing.
Meanwhile, Dr. Asiri pointed out that the MOH was keen to brief the community on the general situation of the virus as well as the latest research and developments in this regard. This was carried out through the ministry's portal and the social networking websites. The ministry has also communicated with many specialists in the field of infectious diseases and infection control to educate and brief citizens on the latest developments in this regard.
Proceeding from the ministry's recognition of the importance of scientific research in the field of emerging diseases, it has hosted a large number of eminent scientists who are specialized in viruses, infectious diseases, epidemiology and animal health with an aim to participate in a study on patterns of diseases, as well as the relation of diseases with the surrounding environment and the risk factors. These efforts have resulted in publishing a large number of scientific articles and research that helped a lot in understanding the ambiguities surrounding this virus. More studies are still urgent in this field, especially with regard to the relation of animals and environment with this disease.
Dr. Asiri went on adding that our Almighty Allah, Glory Be to Him, has made Saudi Arabia the dearest country for all Muslims around the world as it is the only state that hosts the Hajj rituals, which is considered the second largest human gathering all over the world. He also noted that the pilgrimage is performed during a specific time and inside one place; it comes also during different seasons. For all such reasons, the pilgrimage constitutes a challenge for planners and implementers of health services in the Hajj season. “There is no doubt that the Kingdom's deeply-rooted experience in this field has placed the country in the focus of world attention” Dr. Asiri said.
“Such efforts were culminated by the nomination of the Saudi Mass Gathering International Center as an ideal and cooperative center with the World Health Organization (WHO),” Dr. Asiri said, adding that the center is supervised by an executive board including elite of specialists in the field of mass gatherings from within and outside the Kingdom. The center is designed to take advantage of Saudi Arabia's administrative and health expertise in a bid to develop a scientific basis to deal with the human gatherings.
Dr. Asiri added that the Mass Gathering National Center aims to develop the currently-applied mass gathering diploma program and to turn it into an international program. The first class of the diploma has graduated in the middle of the last year after they successfully passed a theoretical and practical training on mass gathering management during the Hajj and Umrah seasons. They were also trained on dealing with the health disasters and epidemics; that is to be added to handling health risks, and planning resources. They also took lectures on ways to deal with common diseases in the mass gatherings.

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