Govt wakes up to MERS threat,asks states to keep vigil

The virus has already killed more than 45 people across the world.

Published: July 17, 2013 5:17 pm

With the spread of the SARS-like Middle East coronavirus in many countries,the Centre has asked all states for increasing surveillance and keeping a close vigil on those travelling to Gulf nations.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) can cause fever,coughing and pneumonia. It is related to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and its symptoms are also similar to H1N1 or Swine flu.

The virus has already killed more than 45 people across the world and its impact is more visible in the middle east countries. The largest number of deaths have taken place in Saudi Arabia. It has sparked fears of a SARS-like outbreak in Asia which left 800 people dead in 2003. So far,no case of MERS has been reported in India.

In a circular issued to all states,the Health Ministry has said that the virus has become a global threat and patients with travel history to the Middle East,China and Taiwan who show signs of respiratory discomfort should be reported and kept under surveillance.

The Ministry has also asked the state health officials under the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) to keep a vigil.

Sources in the Ministry said a total of 81 cases have been reported cross the world with WHO.

Doctors said the symptoms for the virus are similar to that in swine flu where a patient suffers acute respiratory problems. Doctors say the infection leads to pneumonia which can prove fatal.

The Health Ministry advisory has asked the states to inform the hospitals in each district to collect samples of patients with such symptoms where H1N1 is found negative and said such samples should be sent to National Institute of Virology in Pune and the National Centre for Disease Control in Delhi.

WHO’s International Health Regulation Emergency Committee on MERS is meeting in Geneva today to work out a strategy to tackle the virus.

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