MOH News
WHO Representative in KSA: MOH’s Expertise in Epidemiological Surveillance Proved Pioneering
24 September 2014
Dr. Hassan Al-Bishri, representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in KSA, lauded the preparedness of the Ministry of Health (MOH) in terms of the epidemiological surveillance in the land, sea and air ports, and the emergency plan set by the MOH for fighting the viral hemorrhagic fever (Ebola) and the infectious epidemic diseases at the King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah.
Still, Dr. Hassan Al-Bishri described the experiment of the King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah as unprecedented saying, “In my capacity as the WHO representative, I will pass it down with all its details to the Regional Office; in order to circulate it to the other states with the aim of drawing on it as it has proven unprecedented.”
Dr. Hassan Al-Bishri added “In the beginning, I would like to thank the mass media and its role in spreading awareness in general, and diffusing the facts and knowledge among the public to assure them. This is due to my belief that the mass media are a key partner to that regard as we need education not panic. As such, we have one goal which is the cooperation of the bodies with the mass media.”
 “The diseases taking place such as Ebola and other epidemic diseases are not broken out suddenly, and do not need permission entry,” he went on adding. “They are spread by the people coming from known places, such as those coming from stricken countries. As such, the Hajj health aspect is highlighted as the Hajj performers come from far and wide, bringing along diseases, and behaviors triggering the diseases. They also bring along some items breaking out the diseases. For example, among the behaviors related the Hajj rituals are hair-cutting and bringing of food items. Similarly, some help transmit the diseases among the Hajj performers from the other nationalities, and when coming back to their countries, they get infected with many diseases.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Hassan Al-Bishri pointed out that the health regulations have been amended saying, “Now what is known as the international health regulations have been amended. And to cut it short, the international health regulation is what is known by the “epidemiological surveillance”. This aims at reducing the disease spread risk across the borders and swift response for them. Still, one of the most important pillars of the newly modified health regulations is what is related to the land, sea and air ports.”
In a similar fashion, Dr. Hassan Al-Bishri touched upon the significance of the King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah and Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz in Madinah during the Hajj season saying “during the Hajj season, the King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah and Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz in Madinah receive more than 90% of the Hajj performers. Few arrive through the land port from Asia and Russia, and through sea port from Egypt and the Sudan. This highlights the importance of ports. Therefore, the ports must be highly prepared and fully- qualified.
He went on to affirm that “the emergency plan in the King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah and Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz in Madinah and the other ports is not a novelty. But in fact, work has been greatly reinforced as the capabilities and calibers have already been there. So, what is new? The new element is that five physicians have trained at the WHO office in Cairo, as well as experts making visits to the ports, during which they pinpointed points of strength, and areas that need support. Further, officials related to the MOH and Disease Control and Swift Response Center, along with the WHO representative in Riyadh, made internal visits to the ports. After the visits have finished, the team issued recommendations which have been thoroughly implemented and translated into action plans. This resulted in the readiness of the ports and others, and providing all what the teams prepared for that task need in terms of mechanisms, clothing, physicians, disinfectants and human cadres that suffice or more than needed; in order to face any emergency taking place during the Hajj season.”
 In a similar fashion, he added “other scenarios have been developed; for example, what if the plane crew reported a suspected case for a certain disease such as Ebola, or   what would we do if this case were detected at passports or customs point, waiting areas in the airport, or border points? A thought-out plan has been set for all these scenarios, swift response teams have been formed and the details of the plan have been outlined for them. To that end, they conducted simulations at the King Abdulaziz Airport, Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz and Jeddah Islamic port. This aims at getting the people used to carrying out, and avoiding any insufficiencies taking place during the actual events.”  
He also emphasized that this work is not only the responsibility of the MOH alone, but it is a joint responsibility among all the governmental and private bodies, and it needs a high level of coordination. 
Still, he made clear that “a detailed plan has been developed to that effect as all of those taking part in implementing the plan fully knows their tasks. Also, the coordination not only takes place among the entities working in the airport, but also it is made to implement the emergency plan by liaison officers of the international health regulations with other countries. For example, Nigeria filled in a form that has been thoroughly studied. This form could greatly help early detect any case suspected with picking up an epidemic disease. These forms have been designed and have taken effect in cooperation with the Nigerian government, and this work reflects the fruit of the efforts and cooperation between both countries in the health field. 

Last Update : 25 September 2014 12:47 PM
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