Monday, May 6, 2013

Bahrain on alert as Sars-like virus spreads in Saudi Arabia

Gulf Daily News - 06 May, 2013

Bahrain is on high alert following the outbreak of a Sars-like virus in Saudi Arabia.

The novel coronavirus (NCoV) has so-far killed six people there and two others are in intensive care.

Health Ministry primary care and public health assistant under-secretary Dr Mariam Al Jalahma confirmed Bahrain's surveillance systems had been strengthened and authorities were following the situation closely.

"There are no cases in Bahrain, but we are keeping a close watch and will continue to implement World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines and take all necessary measures," she said.

She said although the symptoms are similar to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars), which emerged in 2003, it does not spread easily in humans.

"However, since it has now infected humans and caused deaths in our neighbouring country, we have to be careful," she said.

How the virus is transmitted is still under investigation and people are being encouraged to follow basic hygiene advice - such as washing hands regularly, covering mouths while coughing or sneezing and disposing of tissues in a proper way.

Symptoms of the new virus include high fever, acute respiratory infections, shortness of breath, coughing and difficulty in breathing.

"If these symptoms are left untreated, it may result in kidney failure," said Dr Al Jalahma.

She added the virus was most likely to affect the elderly or those who have chronic medical conditions, with the WHO confirming 24 cases among humans globally - 10 of which are in Saudi Arabia.

However, there is currently no treatment or vaccine for the virus.

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