Ministry takes countermeasures to curb MERS infections in Taif

Acting Health Minister Adel Fakeih speaks with a patient during a visit to a hospital in Taif.

Acting Health Minister Adel Fakeih speaks with a patient during a visit to a hospital in Taif.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has taken a host of prompt and strong measures in a bid to curb the spread of MERS-CoV virus in the summer resort city of Taif.

This was announced Monday by the ministry, which confirmed through the MOH Command & Control Center, headed by Acting Minister of Health Adel Fakeih that nine cases of the virus infection were found in Taif area over the last two weeks.

The measures were taken following the minister’s inspection tour on Sunday of both King Faisal and King Abdulaziz hospitals in the city to check the cases of MERS-CoV.

The minister was joined during his visit by Deputy Commander of Command & Control Center Dr. Anees Sindi and Dr. Abdullah Assiri of the World Health Organization focal point and assistant deputy minister for preventive health.

The immediate actions taken by the ministry included detecting the people who came into contact with the MERS-CoV patients by public health specialists; reducing overcrowding on dialysis machines by providing up to 20 additional dialysis machines to King Faisal Hospital, which will also receive referrals of dialysis patients by King Abdulaziz Hospital; and transferring MERS-CoV patients from King Abdulaziz Hospital to King Faisal Hospital, the designated MERS-CoV hospital for Taif.

The other measures were providing Taif with a mobile laboratory to accommodate the need for additional testing and expediting the delivery of test results; transferring some of the intensive care patients of King Abdulaziz and King Faisal hospitals to Riyadh ad Jeddah; and assessing and monitoring the infection control measures at the MOH facilities. This includes testing the face masks that health care workers wear while treating patients.

Splitting the isolation ward for MERS-CoV patients at King Faisal Hospital into two wards, one for suspected cases and one for confirmed cases, and adding an additional shift to MOH dialysis units in Taif with the goal of preventing infection by reducing the number of patients who are being treated in each session were among the other measures.

Also, the ministry said that the ongoing collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture will be expanded in Taif because some of the infection cases are thought to be associated with exposure to infected camels.

“The concerning rate of infection in Taif suggests we may see additional cases of MERS-CoV there in the coming days. This is a reminder of the dangers to the public of unprotected contact with camels and the need for health care workers to follow proper infection control procedures,” Fakeih said.

“We might not be able to eradicate MERS-CoV, but the ministry must do everything possible to protect patients and health care workers from this disease,” the minister said. “Even one MERS-CoV infection acquired in the hospital is a crisis that demands an immediate and comprehensive response,” he added. “The response to coronavirus will continue to involve all those who can add value to our efforts to control the virus, including the World Health Organization and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Fakeih said.

“There is no vaccine for MERS-CoV, but we can work together to reduce the number of infections. That’s why some of the greatest minds in Saudi Arabia — eminent professors and doctors from universities and hospitals across the Kingdom — are working with the ministry to fight the spread of this virus,” he pointed out.

Since last week, the Command & Control Center has been conducting a comprehensive review of the operations at both Taif hospitals. The deputy commander toured both facilities on Saturday with the head of clinical operations at the center. The head of the infection-control team has been working on site in Taif.


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