Panic over deadly virus as Muslims return
Posted Monday, October 21 2013 at 01:00
Kampala- Although Ugandan pilgrims have started returning home from Saudi Arabia, the government is still reluctant to screen for the possible spread of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which has already killed people in the Middle East.
According to World Health Organisation, MERS-CoV was first confirmed in 2012 and by June this year, there were 53 confirmed –laboratory cases. The death toll currently stands at more than 61, according to the Saudi Arabia health ministry.
Efforts to speak to Health Minister Ruhakana Rugunda and his deputy Sarah Opendi were futile as their known telephones were switched off yesterday. But Dr Alex Ario, the programme coordinator of Antiretroviral therapy in the ministry, said the government was relying on the Saudi Arabian authorities and other international bodies to screen travellers before flying out of countries that are already hit by the virus.
He, however, noted that if any cases are detected, they will be isolated and given treatment.
“We are always on alert and on surveillance. If there are suspected cases, the ministry has the capacity to handle them at our isolation centres,” Dr Ario said on telephone at the weekend.
However, Sheikh Hassan Kiirya, the head of Uganda Bureau of Hajj Affairs, who spoke on phone from Mecca yesterday, denied knowledge of any arrangement to screen the pilgrims before leaving Saudi Arabia.
“There is no outbreak of that nature among the pilgrims and we simply hear people talking about it.
All pilgrims performed the hajj rituals without problem,” he said. The last batch of Ugandan pilgrims is expected in the country this week.
More than 1,000 Ugandans went to Mecca this year.