Bahrain launches Mers awareness drive
Manama, May 17, 2014
A drive to raise awareness about a deadly virus that is spreading across the border will target Bahrain's airport, customs and immigration personnel.
Health officials plan to roll out the nationwide campaign to cover the public and private sectors in hopes of educating Bahrainis and residents about the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (Mers-CoV).
They will also send 20,000 text messages to random people in Bahrain every week, informing them of precautionary measures against the virus, reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
The Health Ministry maintains it has not registered a single case of the fatal virus, which has killed 152 people in neighbouring Saudi Arabia and infected more than 411 individuals since the start of the year.
"Firstly, I would like to assure people there is no need to panic as Bahrain continues to be free from coronavirus," said the ministry's health promotion director Dr Amal Al Jowder.
"We have started our awareness drive by educating all health care workers about the disease and plan to conduct workshops targeting airport staff and even companies," he added.
Dr Al Jowder said Bahrain continued to be in the "-1 phase", which included monitoring and surveillance.
She revealed the ministry had imported new technologies to examine Mers-CoV samples, which was expected to arrive by the end of this month. "We are still in the first stage as there is no outbreak of the disease," she added.
Mers-CoV can be transmitted from person to person, and symptoms include extreme difficulty in breathing and severe flu-like condition that requires treatment in hospital and more than a third of cases result in death.
"There is no known vaccination for the virus," said Dr Al Jowder.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has still not issued advisories for countries to set up special screenings at airports and land borders, says Dr Al Jowder, adding health authorities have contingency plans in place to deal with the situation.
The ministry has partnered with a private telecommunications company to send the text messages to residents.
"People have already started receiving messages in Arabic that advise them on precautionary measures against the virus," said a spokesman.
"Each recipient will receive a set of five messages two times a day as part of the awareness drive."
The GDN had earlier reported that Health Minister Sadiq Al Shehabi said that 565 suspected Mers samples were tested since last year, but were all negative.
The WHO on Wednesday called on countries to improve infection prevention and control, collect more data on the virus and to be vigilant in preventing it from spreading to vulnerable countries, notably in Africa.
A total of 571 Mers cases have been reported to the WHO, of which 171 were fatal.
In many of them, victims caught the virus in hospital from other patients, although experts believe camels may also spread the disease. The vast majority of infections have been reported in Saudi Arabia, and cases outside the Gulf nation have largely involved people who had travelled there.-TradeArabia News Service