BANGALORE: Passengers travelling from the Middle East could bring the dreaded MERS coronavirus to the city, doctors have warned.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS is a viral respiratory infection that was believed to have originated in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It causes fever, cough and shortness of breath.
“The novel MERS coronavirus (MERS CoV) could just be lurking in our community and any passenger might just bring it back from the Middle East. The patients who return from these countries should not ignore symptoms,” Dr B R Ramesh, pulmonologist at the Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain Hospital, said.
He said since Indians have not been exposed to the MERS CoV, any infection will result in sudden reactions. “There are no confirmed cases so far, but the risk cannot be ruled out,” he said. If a patient experiences fever, body ache, tiredness and respiratory trouble on returning from the Middle East he should immediately get himself evaluated, Dr Ramesh said.
He insisted that maintaining good hygiene is very important as contact spreads predominantly through hands. “In crowded places, if you develop symptoms, then please get yourself tested,” he warned.
More than 168 cases of MERS were recently confirmed in Saudi Arabia. Despite the risk of global spread and even a few cases in the US, the World Health Organisation has said it is not a public health emergency yet.
Meanwhile, the Health Department said it has not yet received any formal information about MERS from the Union Health Ministry. Director of the department Dr Geeta Nyamagouder said,”Despite every day communication to the Union Health Ministry, we have got no directions regarding surveillance of MERS CoV infection cases.” She recalled that a circular was issued last year during the return of Haj pilgrims, but no such instructions have come in so far.
Maintaining that suspected cases may well be managed, Director of the State-run Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases said MERS cases have to be managed in the same way as cases of H1N1. “It is a type of influenza and we have laboratories to test and confirm infection cases. Whether surveillance is being done or not, we don’t know. But we are prepared to treat them,” he said.
Pulmonologist at Vikram Hospital Dr K S Satish said even the medical fraternity needs to be careful in watching out for symptoms in patients.