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WHO urges South East Asian countries to step up vigil for MERS virus

IANS 19 Jun 2015, 6:39:51 IST

New Delhi: The World Health Organization urged South East Asian countries to step up their vigil and review preparedness to respond to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus disease.

"Strong health systems using strict infection control measures would be the key to prevent the spread of the virus, and protect healthcare workers and others," said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director of WHO South East Asia region, on Thursday.

Earlier in the week, Khetrapal Singh wrote to the health ministers of the 11 countries in the WHO South East Asia region to review and strengthen preparedness against the deadly disease in view of its recent spread.

The regional director urged the countries to enhance surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections, focus on early diagnosis, and step up infection prevention and control procedures in healthcare facilities.

MERS coronavirus disease is caused by a virus. Typical symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Pneumonia is common, but not always present. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhoea, have also been reported.

MERS coronavirus was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, from where the majority of cases have been reported. Since then 1,333 cases have been reported from 26 countries.