Monday, November 11, 2013

India Reports Possible MERS Infection in Hajj Pilgrim

Bangalore, India reports a possible MERS infection in returning Hajj pilgrim
A 42 year old woman in Bangalore, India has been diagnosed with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, according to Health and Family Welfare Director, Geetha Nyama Goudar.

She had recently visited Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage and may be the first case of MERS in India.

V.B. Patil, Health Commissioner said that District Health Officers had been "directed to deploy staff at the airports in their jurisdiction for screening."

The woman was coughing 'severely' on the plane and was sent by airport screeners to Rajiv Gandhi University of Chest Diseases where she was tested for MERS. Swab samples will be sent to the National Institute for Mental Health and Neuro Sciences for confirmation.

The woman was complaining of a sore throat and fever and was advised to be admitted to the hospital but refused.

Officials said she showed symptoms similar to those seen in the H1N1 virus but her condition was not serious. She was permitted to go home to Anantapur, but authorities have been advised to 'keep a check'.

According to Dr Ravi, Senior Pathologist at the National Influenza Surveillance Centre (NIMHANS), there have been "not more than ten" suspected cases of the rare MERS virus in India so far.

Ravi cautioned that "the incubation period of MERS-CoV is 12 days, it is likely that the infection is not detected when the pilgrims land."

Millions of visitors perform the Hajj pilgrimage every year, a trip which is required of all Muslims who are able to do so. The annual ritual brings visitors to the Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina from around the world.

Airport and health workers world wide are on alert for signs of respiratory distress in returning visitors from the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia has been hardest hit and suspected of harboring an unknown source of the virus.

To date, the World Health Organization has confirmed 153 cases of MERS worldwide including 64 deaths. 127 of those infections have occurred in Saudi Arabia and accounted of 53 of the fatalities.

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