Sri Lanka on ‘Red Alert’ for MERS Virus

The Health Ministry last week said the country is in a Pandemic Influenza preparedness state to meet any entry of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus into the country.
The Health Ministry’s Epidemiology Unit (EU) said that a ‘24/7 Help Desk’ manned by doctors and public health officers has been established at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) to arrest any emergency cases on arrival. Health Ministry officials including EU Director Dr Paba Palihawadana and Director General Dr Palitha Mahipala had helped set up the Desk at the BIA.
Consultant Community Physician (Quarantine) Dr Iresha Dassanayake said that contingency measures are in place if a passenger is suspected of having symptoms of the disease. In addition, she said that thermometers have been provided to check temperatures of all outbound passengers from South Korea and the Middle East.
However, as the Word Health Organisation (WHO) has not declared MERS a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), no travel ban could be imposed on South Korea or the Middle Eastern countries affected by the virus. She said leaflets with information on the disease is being distributed to all inbound and outbound passengers to and from those countries.
In addition, she said that posters and placards are displayed at the BIA to alert passengers on the symptoms of the disease and stressing the importance of passengers presenting themselves at the quarantine desk. Last week, South Korea announced its 24th fatality to the virus, with 166 confirmed cases and nearly 6,000 persons under quarantine. In the same week, Thailand recorded its first MERS victim when a 75-year-old Omani businessman was confirmed to have the virus.
Quarantine Director, Dr H.M.L.B.A. Denuwara said that last week an emergency meeting involving all stakeholders including BIA health staff, Quarantine health officers, PHIs, Immigration Officers and Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment staff was held and plans drawn for immediate action in an emergency.
He said that the Airport ambulance will be on standby for emergency transfer of patients to the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) in Colombo, where specially trained doctors and nurses provided with personnel protective equipment and special wards, have been arranged for such emergency cases.
Explaining further, he said passenger locater forms will also be distributed to all passengers on a flight with an infected passenger, and Medical Officers of Health (MOH) of the areas where those passengers live, will be monitored for two weeks, for symptoms that may be indicative of the disease.
Senior Researcher- EU, Dr Athula Liyanapathirana said the spread of the virus in South Korea has shown there is no clustering of cases and the propagation of the disease within Sri Lanka is minimal.
Courtesy of

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