Hygiene practice critical to halt Mers

The importance of personal hygiene is becoming increasingly evident in preventing the infection

The Mers outbreak provides some important lessons for both health facilities and the public, particularly regarding sanitation and hygiene practices. As The National reported yesterday, the World Health Organisation identified enhancing infection-control measures in hospitals as the best way to halt the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

This follows analysis that most recent Mers cases in the UAE and Saudi Arabia have occurred in hospital settings, showing that the virus is easily spread to health care professionals due to deficiencies in hygiene practices, such as failing to wash hands between attending to patients or improperly using gloves and masks. WHO assistant director general Keiji Fukuda said it was important to spread awareness about Mers among the public and educate them about measures to prevent infection.

Although there is clear cause for concern about Mers, there is no reason for panic. The WHO investigation concluded that this is not a global health emergency.

This is not a recipe for complacency outside of the hospital environment, because the modes of transmission – such as direct and indirect contact or airborne transmission from an infected person sneezing or coughing – also exist in the general community. The focus must be on maintaining high standards of personal hygiene as the key way to prevent this illness spreading further.

Much more needs to be known about Mers – including the way it apparently spreads from camels to humans, possibly via an intermediary species – so a more precise response can be determined.

This is why organisations like the Health Authority Abu Dhabi are urging vigilance when it comes to adopting basic preventive measures – such as washing hands, disinfecting surfaces and using tissues to cover one’s nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing. This helps prevent the spread of illnesses generally, as can measures such as cleanliness in the home, workplace and public areas.

The WHO has called for health authorities to investigate case control in local hospitals and to conduct more environmental and animal studies to improve understanding of this potentially deadly disease. The proper response to Mers is a measured one: improving personal and public hygiene while researchers continue to investigate.

Published: May 15, 2014 04:00 AM


Editor's Picks
Sign up to:

* Please select one