Call for better hygiene to battle the spread of Mers in UAE

The Arab Hygiene Council made the plea after an 82-year-old Emirati man, with a number of pre-existing medical conditions, was found to have contracted the novel coronavirus (Mers) in Abu Dhabi emirate.

ABU DHABI // Hygiene needs to be improved across the country to prevent the spread of the Mers virus, which was officially detected in the UAE for the first time at the weekend, an expert says.

An 82-year-old Emirati man with pre-existing medical conditions was found to have contracted the novel coronavirus Mers in Abu Dhabi.

"Following the reports of the confirmed case of Mers in the UAE, we urge the public to become more vigilant when it comes to their personal hygiene practices," said Dr Muhammad Halwani, consultant in infection control and epidemiology.

"We know that good hygiene, including hand-washing, good respiratory hygiene and disinfection of commonly touched surfaces, can help prevent the spread of coronaviruses.

"Practising good hygiene is everyone's responsibility and something we can do easily for ourselves."

The advice is particularly relevant during Ramadan, when risk of transmitting of respiratory infections and food contamination increases as family members and friends gather in large groups to break their fast each evening.

The hygiene council has released a set of guidelines to help reduce the risk of infection. It advises people to stick to basic internationally known prevention measures.

The exact cause of Mers has not been established but the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been closely monitoring the situation and issuing regular updates on its spread.

The WHO said there had been 81 laboratory-confirmed cases worldwide, including 45 deaths. The UAE case brought that number to 82.

This month, the WHO stressed the virus was not a concern for public health at the moment, although it is feared the risk could increase during the Haj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in October.

Many of the confirmed cases of Mers have originated in Saudi.