Coronavirus: How an Abu Dhabi clinic is treating fear with facts

Burjeel Day Surgery Centre offered a demonstration of how a suspected carrier is tested for the virus by taking a simple nasal swab

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As the Wuhan coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, containing panic can be a formidable task.

A surge of worried patients have descended on Burjeel Day Surgery Centre in recent days, concerned they are showing symptoms of the virus.

In an effort to combat fears with facts, doctors at the Reem Island clinic offered a live demonstration of how they treat suspected victims.

Dr Fadi Baladi, an expert in respiratory diseases, said numbers of patients showing cold-like symptoms and worried they may have the virus have dramatically increased, but few have required a coronavirus check.

“We are looking for anyone with fever or upper respiratory tract infections, in a similar way to screening for normal influenza,” he said.

“If they have been to either Wuhan or China and if they may have been in contact with someone who has recently travelled there, we will do a specific coronavirus test.”


Staff were put on high alert last Monday when a Middle Eastern man, who had recently returned from Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus, reported flu-like symptoms in his two children.

The youngsters, aged two and five, were isolated with their parents and tested for the virus.

Medical staff extracted nasal swabs from each to send for testing at a laboratory in Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.

Results were returned 24 hours later to show the family was free of the virus and they were allowed to return home.

“We didn’t know if the father had passed the coronavirus on to his two children or not,” said Dr Baladi.

“We isolated the patients immediately and placed them into a negative pressure room so any potential virus could be contained.

“This way, the air ventilation would not transfer the virus to anywhere else.

“They had symptoms of fever and coughing, similar to a chest infection.

“It could have been anything, but because of the father’s travel history we had to be very careful.”

So far, the virus has claimed the lives of more than 1,100 people and infected more than 44,600 worldwide.

Experts said each infected person could pass it on to two or three people, on average, if not placed in isolation.

On Sunday, it was announced a Chinese woman had become the first patient in the UAE to recover from coronavirus.

Liu Yujia, 73, contracted the virus in China, then travelled to the UAE, where she began to experience symptoms.

As of Monday, of the seven others taken in for treatment, one of the patients was in intensive  and six remained in hospital in a stable condition.

“There is no comparison between influenza and coronavirus,” said Dr Baladi.

“We do not yet know where the virus is going, but the daily activity report with the World Health Organisation is showing a drop in new cases, and that is positive.

“Hopefully this trend will continue.”

What to do if you suspect you may have coronavirus

Doctors say anyone who is worried they may have the coronavirus – which has officially been named Covid-19 – should call the hospital they intend to visit ahead of time.

Doctors there will assess the risk over the phone and advise them on what to do, which will likely involve advice on how to get to the hospital. Public transport should be avoided to decrease the risk of spreading the virus.

All hospitals in the UAE are required to have isolation rooms to treat patients, so people can choose a hospital based on convenience.

If a doctor believes there are grounds to suspect the patient may be suffering from Covid-19, they will be isolated immediately in a room with an enclosed AC system, which is designed to prevent infection from spreading.

A swab is then taken from their nose and throat which is taken in a vial to an approved government-run laboratory.

The sample is assigned an electronic tracking number which can be traced. The result of the swabs are then uploaded to a system which the hospital can access.

Results take between 24 to 36 hours, during which time the patient will remain isolated in the hospital.

Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre is answering questions and updating residents about the latest news on coronavirus in the country through messages on WhatsApp. The number is 056 231 2171.

Questions can also be directed to Department of Health at 8001717, Ministry of Health & Prevention at 80011111 or Dubai Health Authority at 800342.