KATHMANDU: World Health Organisation has urged all countries in the southeast Asia region to step up vigil and review preparedness to respond to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS CoV) after Thailand confirmed the disease in a traveller from the Middle East region on Friday.
It is said to be the first case of MERS in the WHO southeast Asia region.
“Strong health systems using strict infection control measures would be the key to prevent the spread of the virus while protecting health professionals and common people,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director at New Delhi-based WHO South-east Asia region.
Earlier in the week, Dr Singh had written to the health ministers of 11 countries in the WHO southeast Asia region, including Nepal, asking them to review and strengthen preparedness against MERS CoV in view of the recent spread of the disease.
The Regional Director urged the countries to enhance surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections as well as focus on early diagnosis, while stepping up prevention and control procedures of infections in health-care facilities.
According to a press release, WHO has been working with countries in the southeast Asia region to build their capacities and strengthen preparedness as required under International Health Regulations, 2005, to effectively detect and respond to outbreaks as well as other hazards.
Efficient application of available knowledge, along with prevention and control mechanism, would enable the countries to effectively respond and mitigate the risk of spread of MERS CoV, Dr Singh said.
The typical symptoms of MERS include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Pneumonia is also said to be common, but not always present. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhoea, have also been reported.
MERS CoV was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Since then, as many as 1,333 cases have been reported from 26 countries.
Though no case of MERS has been reported in Nepal as yet, the Epidemiology and Disease Control division of Department of Health Services has urged infected people to stay in separate rooms and cut physical contact with family as well as the community.
It has also advised people coming from South Korea, Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, among others, to undergo medical check-up at the nearest health facility if they have symptoms of fever, cough and pneumonia.