Monday, July 15, 2013

MERS coronavirus likely to spread as UAE-Saudi travel increases

Jennifer Bell & Emily Cleland
July 15, 2013
Excerpt [editing is mine]:

The Mers virus is more likely to spread as travel increases between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, where most cases of the disease have been found, doctors have warned.
The 82nd victim of the virus is in intensive care in an Abu Dhabi hospital after the condition was diagnosed at the weekend. The Emirati, 82, was already being treated for multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. Patients with existing conditions are particularly susceptible to Mers.
Dr Keiji Fukuda, assistant director general for health security at the World Health Organisation, says there are three possible scenarios for the future development of the disease: it will die out, or stay at its current level, or the virus will mutate and infections will increase.

Dr Fukuda said this month he was not advising that the Haj be cancelled. Muslim-majority nations, he said, were aware of the threat of the virus and would be vigilant as pilgrims returned.

Nevertheless, Dr Mansour Al Zarouni, a consultant molecular microbiologist at SRL Diagnostics in Dubai Healthcare City, is concerned at the possible threat to the Haj from Mers. "When all these hundreds of thousands of people are coming, from North Africa to South-east Asia, for Haj, these people will be incubating the virus while in Saudi Arabia and taking it back to their home countries," he said. "Until the Haj season, the issue is mostly a GCC issue but, after Haj, then there's very much a possibility it shall become more of a global issue."

He is also concerned by travel between Saudi Arabia and the UAE before then. "Due to the fact that many Saudis are going to be pouring into the GCC, mainly the UAE, during the summer … the assumption is that they will be bringing these viruses along and, due to the heat of summer, these people will mostly stay indoors, be it the shopping malls or hotels. The likelihood of infecting other people will be higher," he said.

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