MOH News
Minister of Health: No MERS-CoV Cases Reported Amongst Pilgrims
10 September 2015
His Excellency the Minister of Health, Eng. Khalid A. Al-Falih, underlined that the Ministry of Health (MOH) has not yet reported any cases infected with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) amongst the pilgrims, except for one case reported in Madinah outside the central area, apart from pilgrims' whereabouts.   

This came in a press conference held by His Excellency on Thursday, September 10th, 2015, in the MOH Headquarters with the aim of shedding light on the efforts of MOH, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs (MOMRA), in their quest to avert onset and prevalence of MERS-CoV.

Eng. Al-Falih explained that King Abdulaziz Medical City, affiliated to the National Guard in Riyadh, has not reported any new cases of MERS-CoV. "We would like to thank King Abdulaziz Medical City, of the National Guard, for the big and tangible efforts it has carried out to avert the outbreak of the disease during the last three weeks," he added. 

He also extended his thanks to all health sectors for their cooperation and efforts made to control transmission of the infection by implementing clear-cut measures to avert transmission of the disease.  

During the press conference, the Minister tackled three key issues, including MOH efforts with the ministries of Agriculture, Municipal and Rural Affairs, and the other health sectors to control MERS-CoV. He pointed out that the Ministry works on several fronts to avert the outbreak of the virus in terms of transmission from camels to humans in primary cases, as well as curbing its spread amongst people, particularly that the Ministry has observed outbreak cases in the health facilities.

Minister Al-Falih said, "Dear brothers, I'd like to commend the big efforts exerted by King Abdulaziz Medical City, of the National Guard in Riyadh to contain the virus. Thus, we witness a significant progress day by day, thanks to the officials in the City, who work in collaboration with the Ministry of Health represented by the Command and Control Center (CCC) and the World Health Organization (WHO)".

According to the Minister of Health, MOH has intensified its efforts since the onset of the first case of MERS-CoV up to this day, through a clear action plan, including several preventive and therapeutic measures to combat the MERS-CoV and hold back its spread. 

He went on to add, "It does not escape my notice to refer to my meeting today with the Minister of Agriculture, Eng. Abdulrahman bin Abdulmohsen Al-Fadhli, and the Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs, Eng. Abdullatif bin Abdulmalik Al Al-Sheikh. In this meeting, the participants assured continuation of the cooperation between the three ministries in the field of the epidemiological surveillance in the Kingdom, including the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV. We have agreed to continue the cooperation and coordination efforts between the specialists in the field, in the three sectors, within their respective spheres of competence." 

His Excellency explained that his joint meeting with the ministers of Agriculture and Municipal and Rural Affairs today (Thursday) has touched upon the continuation of coordination amongst the taskforces in the three ministries regarding the surveillance and the testing of samples  of infected human cases and the animals that are in contact with them in the Kingdom's regions; stressing the importance of the scientific and health guidelines to be taken with those in contact with the infected camels and people, as well as discussing the aspects of scientific cooperation with the centers and international universities specialized in the researches and studies of MERS-CoV prevention and control. They also discussed developing the performance of the laboratories and the technical equipment in the Kingdom; to combat this disease, stressing that this issue tops the priorities of the three ministries at the present time.  

Eng. Al-Falih has also reviewed the preparations of the Ministry to serve the pilgrims, indicating the arrival of 700.000 pilgrims to the Kingdom via the land, sea and air ports. He said that Ministry has always been, and still is, fulfilling its duty to the fullest; to apply the health requirements on the foreign pilgrims. He indicated that more than 25.000 of the MOH employees are involved in providing therapeutic and preventive services in this year's Hajj season, in addition to all hospitals and health centers in Makkah, Madinah, and the Holy Sites, which are fully operational. 

Reviewing the third key issue during the press conference, the Minister of Health focused on the transmission of the MERS-CoV from the camels to humans, pointing out to the current and continuous cooperation between the Ministry of Health and the ministries of Agriculture and the Municipal and Rural Affairs; to enhance measures of protecting citizens and residents from the virus in a manner that doesn't harm camels activity.   

He has also referred to recommendation of the Ministry of Health adopted by the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs with respect to banning camels from Hajj areas.

In his response to the enquiries of journalists about his meetings with the health officials in USA and the cooperation between the two parties within MOH efforts to combat Coronavirus, Al-Falih proclaimed, "we have agreed with the American side to conduct joint health researches to combat MERS-CoV and other emerging diseases, and that these efforts will be activated and doubled to avert the spread of the virus to the other parts of the world. In this regard, he indicated that before these meetings, MOH had contacted the World Health Organizations (WHO), which hailed the Kingdom's efforts and measures adopted to avert the outbreak of MERS-CoV.

Responding to a question about the rumors about the availability of devices and vaccines for the treatment of the MERS-CoV, the minister said "the Ministry has set a scientific mechanism to check the validity of any new product, and it will not allow any medicine or device before passing through several stages of researches and tests." In this regard, he noted that the Ministry coordinates with the Food and Drug Authority to prevent entry or promotion of any product that is not subject to the national and international scientific standards. 

Meanwhile, Eng. Al-Falih has warned the citizens, residents and the media in the Kingdom not to fall victims to those individuals and companies that promote the said devices in order to profit off the current situation. He called upon everybody to refer to the MOH for trusted health information, which is based on the capabilities and huge expertise it possesses in the health field. He urged everyone to be cautious in exchanging information, especially with the new media revolution.
He confirmed the Ministry's transparency with the public in delivering the right information, out of its responsibility for citizens' health, since the false information causes big confusion for citizens and residents.  

The minister revealed that the percentage of Coronavirus amongst those in contact with the camels is 15 times larger compared to others. He noted, "the percentage of the virus amongst those who slaughter camels is 24 times bigger, which confirms the reliability of the researches announced by the Ministry since the discovery of this virus three years ago."

On his part, the Assistant Deputy Minister of Health for Preventive Health, Dr. Abdullah Assiri underlined that the reports of the field visits confirmed non-onset of any of the new acquired infection cases inside the health facilities at King Abdulaziz Medical City, affiliated to the National Guard in Riyadh, during this week. 

Within the same vein, Dr. Assiri said, "223 cases in contact with confirmed cases were recorded, and are being followed up on a daily basis, also throat swabs were taken from those who show symptoms of the disease. No cases were recorded amongst those who were in contact with positive cases at home." Additionally, Dr. Assiri refuted the circulated rumors about the closure of some schools and recording of some cases infected with the virus amongst school students. Also, he said that no infected cases were recoded amongst the pilgrims who arrived to the Kingdom.

He explained that, the rapid response teams at the CCC continued its activities of assessing commitment of health facilities to the prevention measures, as they visited 61 hospitals and medical centers, during this week, in a number of the Kingdom's regions. 

On MOH's preparations for this year's Hajj season to combat  Coronavirus, Dr. Assiri said that the General Presidency of Scholarly Research and Ifta has approved the preventive measures adopted by the MOH regarding banning camels from the Holy Sites and its environs, and slaughtering only cows and goats for immolation (whether immolated animals are offered by pilgrims "Hadei", ordinary people "Adhahi", or in compensation for pilgrims' sins "Fidia".) 

He added, "In line with the MOH recommendations, the General Presidency of Scholarly Research and Ifta has called upon those in contact with infected people to delay the Hajj for this year, so as not to be the cause of the infection and the spread of the disease amongst pilgrims. 

Further, he pointed out that the number of pilgrims who have been medically examined amounted to 700.000, and that percentage of pilgrims who have valid meningitis vaccination certificate reached up to 89% for all the countries and 96% of the African meningitis belt. He added that the preventive treatment against meningitis was given to 175.000 pilgrims, whilst the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) was given to 212.000 pilgrims. 

On her part, the Executive Director of Infection Prevention and Control at the National Guards Health Affairs, Dr. Hanan Balkhy, said that the City has not closed any of its services except the outpatient clinics, which has limited reception of visitors to ensure safety and health of patients, in addition, the City has prepared a special area for the important operations away from the inpatients infected with MERS-CoV.    

She indicated that cases reported at King Abdulaziz Medical City, affiliated to the National Guard in Riyadh, amounted to 82 confirmed cases including, 13 cases hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU),13 cases hospitalized in the regular inpatients units, and 11 health professionals. No deaths were reported.  

Meanwhile, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture for Animal Resources, Dr. Hamad A. Al-Batshan, said that the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) keeps on its efforts by carrying out epidemiological surveillance tasks in all regions of the Kingdom, explaining that MOA has received 70 reports from the Ministry of Health. 11% of people in contact with the infected cases were examined. Al-Batshan stressed the continuation of cooperation between the ministries of Health and Agriculture to combat this disease. 

On his part, the Deputy Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs for, Mr. Yousif Al-Saif, said, "The cooperation between the ministries of Health and Municipal and Rural Affairs started since the early discovery of the disease. The ministry has adopted measures in the camels gathering areas and its markets," pointing out to the cooperation between the two ministries to ban camels from Hajj areas, besides forming a joint committee including all the concerned bodies to prevent random gatherings of camels. 

 



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