Health authorities are using an electronic database to help doctors detect potential cases of coronavirus during medical checkups.
The Wareed system - in place at Ministry of Health facilities - flags potential cases based on a patient’s symptoms and travel history.
Doctors enter the patient’s details during the consultation, as an algorithm scans the patient’s medical record to decide whether they could be at risk of suffering from the new coronavirus.
Dr Ravi Arora, a specialist in internal medicine at NMC Speciality Hospital in Abu Dhabi, which has dealt with seven suspected coronavirus cases, all of which turned out to be negative, said the Wareed system is in use in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
He said the standardized procedure is useful to flag possible sufferers.
“It’s a beautiful fail-safe procedure to detect cases,” he said.
“We do not as yet have an effective treatment. When we had swine flu, we had Tamiflu. It had an effect. Right now we don’t have an effective treatment, so the focus has to be on preventing the spread. Yes, the fatality rate is 2 per cent, but I would say even 2 per cent is significant. Why should of anyone die because of a virus?”
The global number of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 28,000 on Thursday, with 25 countries affected. The UAE has registered five cases of the virus, all of which have occurred in Chinese tourists from Wuhan.
At least 565 people have now died as a result of the virus, which has a suspected fatality rate of 2 per cent, based on an early estimate from the World Health Organisation. That is significantly higher than seasonal flu, that kills around 0.1 per cent of people it infects.
Although doctors have stressed the fatality rate may be revised down as more mild cases come to light, the mortality rate of the coronavirus just now is more akin to the death rate of Spanish flu. That caused a global pandemic in 1918, infecting around 500 million people, a third of the global population at the time, killing between 20 to 50 million of them. Researchers estimate the case fatality rate of the Spanish flu was around 2.5 per cent.
Dr Rajeshwari Patil, specialist in microbiology at Medeor Hospital Abu Dhabi, said healthy people will likely only experience a mild illness if they are infected.
But it is important to identify all cases in order to prevent it from spreading in the community.
“People with heart disease, diabetes or respiratory allergy are particularly at risk. They are already in an immunocompromised state and are prone to developing a more serious illness,” she said.