ISLAMABAD: The Field Epidemiology & Disease Surveillance Division (FEDSD), National Institute of Health (NIH) Islamabad issued an advisory for Pakistani citizens regarding Prevention & Control of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus (MERS-CoV) during upcoming Hajj,
Through this advisory, the NIH directed to all concerned authorities including federal and provincial ministries of religious affairs to take appropriate measures during Hajj season in order to prevent the spread of diseases.
According to the advisory, the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or MERS‐CoV) that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
The advisory also focused that MERS-CoV can spread from ill people to others through close contacts, such as caring for or living with an infected person, mass gathering events such as the Hajj provide a basis for communicable diseases to spread easily. In the wake of incidence of MERS-CoV cases in Saudi Arabia, its travel associated international spread and the upcoming Hajj seasons, it is imperative to institute effective prevention and control measures among Pakistani pilgrims. Emphasising the need to have close collaboration on the pattern of Hajj 2017, the National Institute of Health, recommends the following actions:
Pilgrims with pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, chronic lung disease and immunodeficiency should consult their Physicians before travelling to assess whether making the pilgrimage is advisable for them.
Through health education sessions conducted at each Hajji camp in collaboration with the provincial / Area Health Departments, the departing pilgrims must be informed about the following general health precautions to lower the risk of infection in general:
Frequent hand washing with soap and water, if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth after touching common surfaces/hand shake with ill persons
Avoid close contact with sick people.
Avoid undercooked meat or food prepared under unsanitary conditions, and wash fruits and vegetables before eating them;
Maintaining good personal hygiene;
Avoid unnecessary contact with farm, domestic, and wild animals, especially camels
Pilgrims developing a significant acute respiratory illness with fever, cough or diarrhoea should be advised to:
Cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and discard the tissue in the trash after use
Minimise their contact with others to keep from infecting them
Returning pilgrims should be advised through a leaflet to seek immediate medical attention if they develop a significant acute respiratory illness with fever and cough during two weeks after their return.