Saudi MERS mission progressing well: WHO
Experts gave Saudi Arabia good marks for getting its MERS-CoV command center up and running
A joint mission led by the World Health Organization (WHO) to assess Saudi Arabia’s efforts against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) said that Saudi Arabia has made progress and is ready to take the next proactive steps, such as better surveillance in camels.
The WHO also released new details about four of Saudi Arabia’s recent cases, and two in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Of the six MERS-CoV cases, five patients had a history of contact with camels, while one case involves an asymptomatic contact.
The WHO joint mission to Saudi Arabia took place from Jan. 11 through Jan. 14 and included visits to health and agriculture ministries, hospitals in Riyadh and Hofuf, labs, a camel research facility, and a camel slaughterhouse and market in Hofuf, according to a report posted by the WHO Eastern Mediterranean regional office.
The event marked the third recent joint MERS mission to Saudi Arabia. The previous one came in August in the wake of a large hospital outbreak in Riyadh.
Some of the group’s goals were to observe Saudi Arabia’s surveillance for the disease, its latest hospital infection and prevention protocols, case investigation capabilities, and research priorities.
The experts gave Saudi Arabia good marks for getting its MERS-CoV command center up and running, which has laid good groundwork for an effective public health response, they said.
The mission found that surveillance for detecting and monitoring suspected and confirmed MERS-CoV cases has improved, now that an electronic web-based system is up and running. They noted, though, that the systems are mainly “responsive” and that the next step would be a sentinel surveillance system to look for severe acute respiratory infections to help flag problems earlier and reduce the risk of missed cases.
Hospital outbreaks have declined at health ministry hospitals, but challenges remain at other hospitals, according to the group.
For the country’s next priorities to step-up the response to MERS-CoV, the joint mission group had five main recommendations.
They included appointing a leader with the necessary authority to fully implement and expand the nation’s strategy for controlling the disease.
The recommendations also included increasing collaboration between health and agriculture ministries, addressing research priorities flagged by earlier MERS-CoV expert groups, documenting and sharing infection prevention and control lessons, and making the control center a multisector body to deliver a coordinated, consistent approach.
This article first appeared in the Saudi Gazette on Jan. 28, 2016.
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