MOH News
Minister of Health: MERS Outbreak Relatively Limited, Cases in Riyadh Are Mono-source and to Be Controlled
19 August 2015
In a meeting with heads of Riyadh hospitals and healthcare facilities at the Ministry of Health Headquarters, His Excellency the Minister of Health, Eng. Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih, has indicated that the current outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is relatively limited, and that all cases reported recently in Riyadh are all mono source. Al-Falih maintained that the Ministry of Health (MOH) is working with leaps and bounds, adopting highly professional measures to contain the outbreak, stressing the fact that MOH is committed to transparency with society and the media, through declaring the reality of the situation and reporting confirmed cases once tested positive. He added that there will be several scheduled interviews with health sectors and media partners at conferences in addition to press releases and ongoing communication.
 
Al-Falih warned that caution is advisable, noting, "We do not want to exaggerate nor downplay the reality of the situation; this would only yield negative results. Nevertheless, I'd like to stress that this is not the first MERS outburst in KSA. We are confident that strict application of infection control strategies adopted by MOH, which thankfully worked out in the past and managed to contain the virus outbreak, will continue to control the virus, God willing."
 
His Excellency added, “Current data and situation along with MOH preparations in cooperation with its partners in other health sectors are relieving. No need for excessive worry. So far there is no intention to close schools or issue ban from public places. People can lead a normal life." The minister advised caution when contacting people with respiratory diseases, and called for abiding by infection control measures in healthcare facilities, most notably refraining from visiting inpatients with infectious diseases unless necessary; following hygiene and prevention of disease guidelines during visits; and finally applying guidelines issued in MOH awareness messages.
 
Al-Falih noted that MERS cases in children have been few and limited. The virus is rarely transmitted through air; it is often transmitted through direct contact with MERS patients. MOH pointed out that patients with chronic diseases are the most prone to complications.
 
The Minister put it clear that the health sector has accumulated successful experiences, and learned from the experiences of dealing with outbreaks in infected areas; a matter which sustained the health system's ability to deal with the virus and successfully tackle the current situation, God willing.
 

During the press conference, the Minister reassured citizens and residents that the cases reported are still few and limited to primary case contacts. He declared that as of now, there is no evidence of other outbreaks in or outside Riyadh, and called upon everyone not to panic, and in the meantime remain vigilant and cautious.

Al-Falih revealed that more cases are expected to be reported in relation to the current outbreak, and may hit other hospitals. He confirmed that MOH hospitals and other health sectors in Riyadh are ready to work under a standardized system for receiving expected cases, and apply strict regulations with regard to infection combat in order to prevent diseases spread in and out healthcare facilities.
 
His Excellency the Minister of Health, Eng. Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih expressed his confidence in the health sector, which operates as an integrated harmonized system, to overcome the MERS-CoV outbreak in Riyadh, and potential increase of cases in more than one hospital. He pointed out that King Abdulaziz Medical City, of the National Guard, has been facing a MERS outbreak over the past few weeks, which started with a single case, and spread through direct contacts and health professionals.

He emphasized that the Command and Control Center (CCC), under the Ministry of Health, is working by leaps and bounds with the other health sectors to assess the infection control measures at health utilities, and develop them in a way that would ensure putting an end to the spread of virus, within or without health facilities.
 
According to the Minister of Health, the outbreaks that took place over the past three years in health sectors are to be attributed to loopholes in the strict application of infection control measures at health facilities. He reiterated the necessity of regularly assessing the adhesion to such measures, by means of frequent field visits to the health facilities pertaining to all sectors.

Eng. Al-Falih declared that, in light of the ongoing cooperation and coordination between all health sectors in the Kingdom, he will pay a visit to King Abdulaziz Medical City, affiliated to the National Guard, to get reassured about the condition of the patients hospitalized in it, and to take a closer look at the measures taken to control the disease. He mentioned that the ER section of that hospital, as well as some outpatient clinics, have been closed as a preemptive action. Still, the other sections offer their services normally to patients and outpatients. “Colossal efforts are being exerted now to determine those in contact with MERS-CoV patients, and examine them as per the approved protocol, in addition to quarantining the suspected and confirmed cases,” the Minister explained.
 
As for the Ministry’s preparations for averting the onset of the disease during the Hajj season, Eng. Al-Falih stressed that the Ministry is now fully ready. It has prepared a comprehensive preventive plan, starting from the entry points to the Kingdom, through to the Hajj sites, until the pilgrims return safe to their homes. In this spirit, the Ministry has well equipped the health facilities spread all through the Hajj sites. “The MOH, in conformity with its established custom, is harnessing all potentials and capabilities to prevent infectious diseases from making a way into the Kingdom. That is what the Ministry is accustomed to, and that is what it will continue to do this year,” he said. 

Eng. Al-Falih affirmed that no MERS-CoV cases were recorded over the past Hajj seasons, thanks be to Allah, and that the MOH facilities in the Holy Sites are ready for quick diagnosis, as well as moving and quarantining cases, if the need arises.
 
“The Ministry has given rise to the Mass Gathering Medicine Center, and founded the Advisory Scientific Center with a view to enable health professionals to better deal with the virus,” he said.

In his response to a question revolving around South Korea’s success in controlling the disease, he was quoted as saying, “In reality, only one primary case has emerged in Korea, whereas there are hundreds of primary cases emerging in KSA as a result of the viral transmission from camels. And as a matter of fact, the Kingdom has managed to control tens of outbreaks over the past years. Still, the most serious challenge resides in the primary cases, triggered by direct transmission from camels.”
 
He made clear that the Ministry of Health is responsible for public health in the Kingdom, and is working hand in hand with all the sectors providing health services. In doing so, it seeks to provide the best-quality health services that would gain the satisfaction of beneficiaries.
 
 “The Ministry is resolute to enlist all the potentials and capabilities it has for supporting hospitals,” he added. Meanwhile, he called upon directors of health facilities to adopt transparency when asking for support, in cases where there is shortage of capabilities or supplies, in a manner that could affect the service provided for patients.
 
Over and above, the Ministry, according to Eng. Al-Falih, is about to launch a big awareness campaign with the aim of boosting the awareness of citizens and residents, as well as health professionals. This is projected to curb the prevalence of the disease, and draw people’s attention to the prevention guidelines issued by the Ministry.
 
For his part, the Deputy Minister of Health for Public Health and Head of the Command and Control Center (CCC), Dr. Abdulaziz bin Saeed, shows keen interest in coordinating with health sectors, in an effort to put an end to the spread of the disease. In this spirit, the center has deployed epidemiological surveillance field teams to assess the infection control measures.
 
The Director-General of Riyadh Health Affairs, Dr. Adnan Al-Abdulkarim, on his part, confirmed that the CCC is currently playing a crucial role in surveillance, diagnosis, follow-up and treatment of suspected and confirmed cases through 11 specialized platforms.

 




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