Lab Test Only Way to Confirm MERS Infection
An illustration from the Ministry of Health guideline for infection prevention and management for patients with MERS-CoV shows the correct technique for taking a nasopharyngeal swab from patients. (Courtesy of MOH)
Health authorities confirmed that so far, the only way to verify if a patient is infected with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is through a laboratory test.
“This is because MERS symptoms very much resemble those of the influenza. Therefore it is essential to make a lab test to verify whether there is a MERS-CoV infection or not, ” Dr. Nesreen Sherbini, consultant of communicable diseases and epidemiologist, told local media.
Sherbini also works at the National Center for Health Communication and Awareness at the Ministry of Health, where authorities have set up a call center to answer questions regarding the MERS virus.
Echoing health officials’ recommendations, Sherbini reiterated that the MERS infection is caused by exposure to cough, sneeze, by touching the eyes or the mouth of the infected person or camel.
“If there has been exposure, it is important to wash carefully that part of the body with water and detergents or antiseptics. Also, it is crucial that the person should get an urgent medical checkup, especially if the person starts to have high temperature and symptoms of influenza, coupled with shortness of breath,” she warned.
Sherbini mentioned that major studies show that camels are the main carriers of the virus, so it is strongly advised to avoid touching their sprinkles and nasal or eye mucosa.
“However, there is no harm in drinking their milk as it has not been proved that the infection can be caused by drinking camel milk, but as a strong precautionary measure, it should be properly boiled or pasteurized,” the physician said.
She attributed the virus’ high rate of death among the 50-year-old and above population to their weak immune system. Since the start of this winter season, the center began hosting daily a number of prominent consultant on seasonal diseases. Ministry of Health spokesman Khalid Mirghalani told Arab News that these experts are educating the public online and through radio broadcasts on the MERS virus and other similar diseases, so the public can take preventive measures.