(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) The epidemiological situation and the strategy ahead to deal with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) will be reviewed at a regional meeting in Muscat to be hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MoAF), in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on May 20 and 21.
MoAF recently held a consultative meeting in this regard at its headquarters, where H E Dr Fuad bin Jaafar bin Mohammed al Sajwani, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries along with H E Dr Mohammed bin Said al Hosni, Undersecretary for Health Affairs in the Ministry of Health and H E Dr Ahmed bin Nasser al Bakri, Undersecretary in MoAF and a number of other officials from both the ministries discussed the MERS-CoV situation.
The meeting discussed the global and regional situation, the latest developments and the precautionary measures being taken by both ministries to tackle the disease.
With a recent research, 'MERS-CoV in dromedary camels, Oman' suggesting a high viral load in nasal swabs of dromedary camels and the possibility of local zoonotic transmission through the respiratory route, the World Health Organization (WHO) has encouraged all member states to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns.
Dr Jaouad Mahjour, WHO Team Leader, at a meeting in Jeddah on Friday said that camels are increasingly being seen as the primary source of MERS-CoV infecting humans, as recent studies show that camels can harbour live virus.
''However, it is still unclear how exactly the virus is being transmitted to humans. Once infected, the person can pass the virus to other people, but no sustained chains of infection have been observed.
''Until we better understand how the virus transmits from camels or the environment to a human, we are likely to see more cases, and with travel, the virus is exportable,'' Dr Mahjour further said.
WHO states that until further information is gathered, it is prudent for persons at high risk of severe disease due to MERS-CoV (including those with diabetes, chronic lung disease, pre-existing renal failure, or those who are immuno compromised) to take appropriate precautions when visiting farms and market environments where camels are present.
These measures include avoiding contact with camels, maintaining good hand hygiene, and avoiding drinking raw milk or eating food that may be contaminated with animal secretions or products unless they are properly washed, peeled or cooked.
When visiting a farm, live animal markets or a barn, general hygiene measures such as regular hand washing before and after touching animals, avoiding contact with sick animals, and food hygiene practices should be followed.
As of April 30, 2014, 424 cases of MERS-CoV have been reported globally, including 131 deaths.
All cases have either occurred in the Middle East or have direct links to a primary case infected in the Middle East.
The primary case for each chain was infected in the Middle East, and local secondary transmission following importation was reported from the UK, France and Tunisia.
The number of reported cases increased markedly in April 2014 with 217 cases and 38 deaths as compared to the 207 cases reported from the beginning of the outbreak (September 2012) to March 31, 2014.
Among these 217 cases, 179 (82 per cent) were reported by Saudi Arabia, 32 cases (15 per cent) by the UAE, two cases were reported by Jordan and one case each by Egypt, Greece, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Since September 2012, 95 cases have been reported among healthcare workers, of whom 62 (65 per cent) were reported in April 2014.
Seventy (74 per cent) of the healthcare workers were reported from Saudi Arabia, 23 (24 per cent) from the UAE, and one each from the Philippines and Jordan.