MOH News
MOH Holds the First Press Conference to Update Community and Media on MERS
23 August 2015
At the directives of His Excellency the Minister of Health in a recent press conference, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has held today the first press conference within a series of meetings meant to update the community and media on the latest developments of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome - Corona Virus (MERS-CoV), in line with the transparency and partnership approach adopted by MOH. 

Today's meeting focused on the recent increase of MERS-CoV incidence reported  at King Fahad National Guard Hospital and the measures adopted to contain it. 

In this regard, a number of special steps have been taken to respond to this outbreak and contain it, including:
  • ​Sending the Rapid Response Team immediately to the National Guards Hospital in Riyadh. The team, composed of experts specialized in infection control, will support their medical team in applying standards of infection control effectively.   
  • Deploying the field epidemiology team to support and identify the way of infection transmission and the related risk factors.
  • Activating the public health team to support in identifying those in contact with the infected and suspected cases in a comprehensive manner. To that end, the MOH has tested more than 5700 samples of all cases. 

Within the same context, MOH has adopted measures at the national level to prevent any possibility of another prevalence or outbreak of the virus. These measures include:  
- Sending Infection Control Specialist Team to all Riyadh hospitals to confirm readiness of the hospitals and health facilities to apply the infection control criteria, and make sure that all these facilities are following protocols and measures of infection control and applying safety measures inside the health facilities. In this regard, the Minister of Health has personally held meetings with all the directors of these health facilities. 
  • ​Creating an open network to exchange real-time information amongst the medical teams and hospitals at the national level, in order to enable them to remain in constant contact, thus exchanging expertise regarding corona virus.  
  • Appointing a health professional as a coordinator for infection control in the emergency rooms throughout the Kingdom, providing 24/7 support to local medical teams, and connecting them with the infection control experts at the national level, thus ensuring the early diagnosis of the newly discovered cases, and supporting the medical teams for the optimal local response. 

Meanwhile, the Deputy Minister of Health for Public Health, Dr. Abdul-Aziz bin bin Saeed, explained that the total number of the cases infected with corona virus reported at King Fahad Hospital were 53 cases,  including four health professionals. Of them, 32 cases are receiving treatment at hospitals, three cases are quarantined at home, and one case has recovered and discharged from the hospital; that is to be added to 17 deaths. We pray to Allah to have mercy on the deceased, and to grant speed recovery for the patients.  

On the other hand, Bin Saeed said that the total number of cases Kingdom wide amounted to 65 currently receiving treatment at hospitals. Seven new cases were reported yesterday in Riyadh, all of whom are stable, including two cases quarantined at home. And one case passed away, may Allah have mercy on him. This brings the total accumulative number of MERS-CoV cases since the outset of 2012 to 1,141 cases. 

Regarding the reported increase of incidence at King Fahad National Guard Hospital, the Assistant Deputy Minister of Health for Preventive Health, Dr. Abdullah bin Mufrih Esseiri, explained that the reported number is cumulative, covering the entire period since the onset of the disease at King Fahad Hospital; "it's not the result of one day or two," he said. "The incubation period might extend to two weeks for some people." He stated that the MOH reported greater numbers of infection transmission cases at health facilities in the last years compared to the number announced by the Ministry of the National Guards. "This turns our attention to the nature of the virus genes, as the disease is transmitting easily inside the health facilities due to the patients' immune deficiency and their susceptibility to develop the disease, and the emergence of the symptoms amongst the cases provides an opportunity for transmitting the infection to others," he said. "This is hardly different from what the Ministry experienced during the last years. That's to say, the recent outbreak doesn’t make the virus more virulent. Nor does it implicate that the virus has become more able to spread. and that the strict application of the infection control program has started, thanks to Allah, to yield its fruits and reflected positively on the decrease of the reported cases. 

Esseiri indicated that the announced number is the second highest one recorded the health facilities. However, King Fahad National Guard Hospital is now out of danger, as the outbreak has started to recede.

On her part, the Executive Director of Infection Prevention and Control at the National Guards Health Affairs, Dr. Hanan Balkhy, said that home quarantine is vital for the individuals who turn out to be infected with the disease. "They have to be quarantined at home in either of two cases: being in contact with positive cases, even without showing the symptoms of the disease, or showing symptoms that are too mild to require hospitalization, as per the guidelines approved by the MOH's Command and Control Center (CCC). She indicated that home isolation is carried out by a specialized team who contact and follow up, on a daily basis, the patients isolated at their homes to make sure that they have not shown more serious symptoms of the disease, pointing out that they are admitted to the hospitals upon the appearance of any of the disease symptoms. 

Answering a question on the possibility of the onset of the disease amongst the young school pupils, MOH indicated that, since the increase in the detected cases is coinciding with the beginning of the school year, the Ministry has shown keen interest in this matter. What calls to some relief, though, is that pupils at school age are not as susceptible to be MERS-CoV infection as the adults. 

In this respect, MOH explained that, for four years, only few children (12 cases) have been reported as infected with MERS-CoV. And these infections has nothing to do with schools and gatherings; rather, they all were in contact with MERS-CoV patients, or got infected inside health facilities. 

MOH indicated that, although no cases have been reported amongst school students until now, still we need to be fully ready and prepared for any contingency, Allah forbid! Indeed, this is what is taking place now when it comes to dealing with the virus through the coordination between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education.   

Within the same vein, Dr. Esseiri said, "MOH has initiated an awareness program dealing with this disease since the last year. In addition, there is an ambitious plan between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, according to which a health coordinator shall be designated at each school. The coordinator shall be capable of evaluating the status in the event of appearance of any symptoms in those schools." Esseiri called for spreading awareness and refraining from spreading panic amongst students. "Thanks to Allah that," he said, "no cases were reported during the past years. Similarly, we don't expect reporting any cases this year as well." 

Further, Dr. Esseiri confirmed that there is constant communication between education departments and MOH through the health affairs directorates in the regions and provinces to report any cases amongst students - Allah forbid!  

Concerning the MOH preparations to prevent the outbreak of the virus amongst pilgrims, Dr. Esseiri pointed out that this is the fourth consecutive season since the onset of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). But what is different this year is that the reported cases are very few compared to the last year, and preparations are very tough in applying the preventive measures as the season is approaching coupled with reporting cases infected with corona virus. He revealed that MOH can't be the first defense line without the concerted efforts of other parties relevant to the Hajj. "To that effect," he said, "MOH has adopted measures including preventing the primary cases in contact with camels from entering the areas adjacent to the Holy Sites and the Prophet's Mosque. This is expected, Allah willing, to prevent reporting cases in relation with camels. While the secondary cases are related to people infected with the virus and registered in the lists of the people in contact with the infected people." He added, "Those people are followed up for two weeks till their last contact with the infected people, in order to coordinate with concerned authorities to prevent them from entering Hajj areas to avoid prevalence of the infection amongst pilgrims." 

Likewise, Dr. Esseiri said that health facilities inside the Holy Sites are prepared to respond to any pneumonia case to be recorded as a corona suspected case, and then this case is to be reported to public health. He said, in addition, that there are procedures to move and test samples inside the Holy Sites. In this regard, he said, MOH has prepared three laboratories inside the Holy Sites, in addition to the Madinah laboratory, as well as setting a mechanism to dealing with the suspected cases. Additionally, MOH has prepared quarantine rooms in all hospitals, and when there are confirmed cases, they are to be sent immediately outside the Holy Sites to the quarantine in Jeddah allocated for such cases. 

All the more, Dr. Esseiri said that MOH has provided training for all the health staff working in Hajj areas on two phases, the first provides training for them before coming to Hajj areas, whilst the second one starts at the beginning of Dhul-Hijjah inside the hospitals of the Holy Sites to make sure that they are aware of applying the preventive measures while dealing with the cases that could be reported, Allah forbid!  

In conclusion, MOH said that the responsibility of preventing the spread of MERS-CoV goes beyond healthcare professionals. It is a responsibility shared by everyone to be aware and informed about the very basic preventative hygiene steps that can stop the spread of infection. This includes washing hands with water and soap for 30 seconds, using a tissue or arm soles when coughing or sneezing, and reducing visits to infected patients in the hospital.

It's noteworthy thatstatistics and news regarding MERS-CoV are updated daily on the Ministry of Health website
 
and Command and Control Center website


 



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