June 15, 2013
Surveillance on for MERS-coronavirus; post-Haj period crucial, say scientists
“Screening for the novel coronavirus is now part of our influenza surveillance programme. While coronavirus is not something new, the MERS-CoV strain had not been identified in humans earlier. The reason it is being feared is because of its severity as more than 60% infected persons have died. Also, little is known about it so far like transmission and clinical impact,” said Dr D T Mourya, director, NIV.
NIV director said that specimens of severe pneumonia cases reported across the country are being collected to screen for the novel MERS-CoV, but all have tested negative.
Dr Manju Chaddha, deputy director at NIV who heads the influenza research division, explained that scientists and clinicians have been told to look out for any viruses that cannot be sub-typed or which are novel.
“Currently we perform standard tests to determine patient’s specimen tests for any of known influenza virus sub-types. However, after the tests if it is found that the specimen is negative for all of them, then the alert should be sounded. Since what we are looking for is something unique, we have asked hospitals to refer us cases where the cause is unknown or unexplained,” she said.
“Thousands of our pilgrims would travel to Middle East and there is increased risk especially given the crowds. Not only will we have to educate our travellers but also work out a surveillance strategy for the post-Haj pilgrim period,” said Mourya.