Lebanon hospitals training to fight MERS

With the first confirmed case of MERS in Lebanon, the country's hospitals are renewing their training efforts to combat the coronavirus, the general director of the Health Ministry said.

“The hospitals received training last year on combating viruses and are now getting refreshing courses to be able to handle the coronavirus,” Walid Ammar told The Daily Star.

The training consists mostly of the infection prevention and control measures to avoid any possible spread of the MERS virus and courses to improve workers’ knowledge of the disease, the official said.

Ammar said the average fatality rate of those affected by the disease so far was 28 percent. “The secondary and mild cases are more abundant than the critical cases that cause death,” he said.

He said that the sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus was very rare.

“Unfortunately, there are no vaccines or anti-viral treatments for the virus and experts are still struggling to understand where it comes from,” he said.

The official said that the patient diagnosed with MERS Thursday afternoon was a Lebanese man who had visited Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries but added that he was much better.

“He got the necessary treatment and he is recovering. He is back home now, and we took preventive measures to keep him isolated from other family members as not to transmit the virus to them,” he said.

Hotel Dieu Hospital denied in a statement that any cases of the coronavirus had been treated at the facility, shrugging off media reports that the MERS patient had received treatment in Hotel Dieu. The Health Ministry refused to name the hospital in which the patient was treated.

Lebanon Thursday installed thermal scanners in Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport to detect any MERS patients among arrivals.

A source in the airport said only those suspected to have the symptoms of the disease were going through the scanning. “They are then being transferred to local hospitals to go through full examination and confirm if they really have the MERS virus,” the sources said.

The MERS virus causes coughing, fever and pneumonia. It first appeared in Saudi Arabia in September 2012, and the Gulf country has reported 431 infections since then, among them 126 fatalities.

Cases of the contagious disease have also been reported in Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Oman, Tunisia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Britain. MERS is transmitted by close contact.

MERS is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus that erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, 9 percent of whom died.

Some researchers think it may originate in camels.

Meanwhile, MP Atef Majdalani, head of Parliament's Health Committee, said the ministry had taken precautionary measures at the airport and was monitoring travelers coming from countries where MERS had spread.

“The precautionary measures taken at the airport exceeds the ones required by the World Health Organization,” Majdalani told reporters after meeting with Prime Minister Tammam Salam to discuss the matter. “The medical team at the airport is on high alert ... and anyone suspected of carrying the virus will be checked at the airport and transferred to the nearest hospital."

Source: The Daily Star
Published: 09 May 2014

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