Capacity building to combat MERS-CoV urged (The Nation (Pakistan))

The health representatives have been urged to develop capacity and enhance skills of departments and officials involved in fight against deadly communicable diseases like Ebola and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

The World Health Organisation in coordination with Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination and National Institute of Health (NIH) organised a two-day meeting on ‘Scaling up Preparedness and Awareness Raising for the MERS-CoV Prevention’ here at a local hotel, which concluded yesterday.

WHO Country Representative Dr Michel Thieren highlighted that health system in Pakistan has become more resilient and one such example is of dealing with the threat of Ebola virus disease last year where the federal and provincial health departments worked in coordination and were able to develop and implement the SoPs to deal with the EVD. He while talking about MERS-CoV said that this virus is new and there is very less knowledge available about the disease and virus. He emphasised that knowing the disease and its virus is important and the fact that MERS-CoV is not Ebola although it also presented with high mortality and also it is not as contagious as other airborne diseases like measles.

He shed light on the history of the virus and shared with the participants that the disease was first reported from Saudi Arabia in 2012 and Saudi Arabia is the reservoir of this virus and MERS-CoV has been reported from 26 countries so far and all cases showed direct or indirect link with Arabian Peninsula. He urged national and provincial health representatives for developing core capacities, required under IHR, and enhancing skills of departments and officials who are involved in fight against deadly communicable diseases like Ebola and MERS-CoV. He urged national and provincial participants to focus upon six pillars of preparedness including leadership and coordination; improved vigilance at health facilities; enhancing surveillance and contact tracing; infection control; enhanced laboratory capacity and risk communication for public awareness. He briefly explained the steps and measures that WHO has taken globally regarding control and containment of MERS-CoV infection.

The Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Though Pakistan has not reported any case of MERS-CoV so far but due to its regular travel linkages with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, there are high chances of infection transportation especially on the onset of Hajj season, and this may be the high time to remain prepared and vigilant.

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