Saudi Arabia vows to contain deadly coronavirus

Health minister says to enhance quality of services being provided to patients with MERS

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Acting Minister of Health Adel Fakeih has said the Ministry of Health will cooperate with a team representing the Ministry of Defense and other government bodies to enhance the quality of services being provided to patients suffering from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

Speaking during a tour of King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah Wednesday morning, Fakeih said his ministry would make all efforts to make quickly available treatment to all people afflicted by the coronavirus that causes the disease and would also increase the capacity of treatment facilities.

Fakeih said the country's supreme authorities had given instructions to make all-out efforts to get the required human resources to deal with the crisis.

The acting health minister said King Fahd Hospital currently treats 21 MERS cases while a number of infected people have recovered following treatment at various hospitals in the city. He advised the public to regularly monitor the ministry's website for follow-up information.

According to Fakeih, the ministry has appointed new administrative officials at King Fahd Hospital and is assessing with Health Affairs officials in Makkah and Jeddah the need for immediately appointing a qualified medical team at the hospital. "The new team will immediately take up its duties," he said.

Fakeih said it is too early to speak about a vaccine against the virus. “We are still in the first stage" of developing the vaccine, he said, adding that they have taken into consideration recommendations by six international experts and researchers from universities in Denmark, Switzerland and France in this regard.

Speaking to Saudi Gazette, Director of Health Affairs in Madinah Abdullah Al-Taifi said all coronavirus cases would be sent one specific location to limit the chances of spreading the virus. “No location has yet been specified, but we are in the process of naming one. This is crucial to be able to equip the location and reduce risks,” he said.

Al-Taifi confirmed that Madinah is among the cities where the coronavirus cases were documented. However, he refused to give numbers or name hospitals where the cases were admitted.

Fakeih on Wednesday launched a public awareness campaign as part of his ministry's efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Launched in coordination with the World Health Organization, the campaign aims at encouraging the public to take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the disease.

The campaign will provide community members with information and guidelines necessary to do their part in the fight against the deadly virus.

The campaign urges people not only to follow strict measures of hygiene, but specifically to avoid sick camels and refrain from eating raw camel meat or drinking unboiled camel milk. Fakeih had already made such a recommendation last week.

The campaign will be promoted in the coming weeks through various communication channels, including the ministry's website www.moh.gov.sa. On Wednesday, health officials announced two more deaths from MERS, bringing the toll to 117.

The victims were a 68-year-old woman in Jeddah and a 60-year-old man died in Madinah.

Saudi Arabia has reported 431 infections since MERS first appeared in its eastern region in September 2012 before spreading across the Kingdom.

This article was published in the Saudi Gazette on Wednesday, May 8, 2014.