Increased number of MERS cases in UAE prompts for actions


Instead of leaving MERS virus protection as simply government officials’ concern, the private sector in the UAE should take some actions for informing and educating the people. The number of MERS cases in UAE has increased and the country is currently the second most prevalent in the region for the virus.

Dubai-based Dr. Salwan Ibrahim, who is a Middle East Medical Director for International SOS, has urged people to seek information on the new virus, which is spreading across the emirates. The Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) first appeared in September 2012 and since then, most of the cases have been reported in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The other country with a large number of confirmed infections was until now Qatar, but with the latest cases in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the UAE has become the second most prevalent country for the virus. Up to date, there have been 176 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV, including 74 deaths, according to the latest announcement by the World Health Organization.

Companies and the entire private sector should raise awareness among employees and take measures to educate them on basic infection prevention, according to Dr. Ibrahim. He says employers should invest time and finances in informing the workers how to reduce the risk of exposure and infection with the dangerous virus. For him, the strongest weapon right now is information and everyone should be vigilant. People should know how to protect themselves – keeping away from sick people, practicing basic hygiene (washing hands, covering the mouth when you sneeze or cough), and staying at home when you get sick. Of course, not every cough means MERS virus, it can be a common cold or a flu, but precautions are needed.

Last month, the WHO announced that an Emirati man in Dubai died from MERS and his wife was also later found sick. Another case included an entire Jordanian family living in Abu Dhabi – the mother, the father, and their 8-year-old son as well, were all infected. The woman, who was pregnant, died in the hospital after giving birth to a healthy baby. These cases are showing that the virus transfers from human to human and without any actions for stopping it, it can easily spread among the population. This is especially valid for Dubai, which is a busy global trade, tourism, and transport center with thousands of people moving through the airports.

According to Dr. Ibrahim, the trickiest part is that the MERS virus mutates very fast, and while it wasn’t very contagious until couple of months, the number of emerging cases seems to be increasing. Although many parts of the puzzle still remain a mystery, the doctor says that right now, experts have better knowledge and technology to treat and contain the virus.