Has Deadly MERS Threat Surrounded Sri Lanka?

Despite the fact that tens of thousands of Sri Lankan workers are presently employed in  the Middle East, the Sri Lankan health authorities have claimed that Sri Lanka is not affected by the deadly MERS threat which is spreading across the Middle East and Europe. 

Over the last 30 days, MERS ( Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) cases in Saudi Arabia have swelled from one to three daily to more than 10 reported cases each day. According to the World Health Organization, the reporting countries of MERS in the Middle East include Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)  and the United Arab Emirates (UAE); in Europe: France, Germany, Greece, Italy and the United Kingdom (UK); in North Africa: Tunisia; and in Asia: Malaysia and the Philippines.

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Speaking to media, W.M.D. Wanninayake, Spokesman of the Ministry of Health said Sri Lanka was not facing any threat concerning MERS.

“We don’t have to panic. There are so many conditions that need to be taken into consideration when determining whether Sri Lanka is facing a risk of that nature. Those conditions do not exist in Sri Lanka,” the Health Ministry spokesman has said. 

Meanwhile, Chief Epidemiologist at the Health Ministry’s Epidemiology Unit, Dr. Paba Palihawadana, had told 'The Nation' weekly newspaper that authorities were aware of the virus and as with other such coronaviruses, they have put in place a mechanism to create awareness among the public on the matter. 

“There are awareness programs conducted through the Bureau of Foreign Employment, travel agencies and Sri Lanka’s embassies in the respective countries to make travelers and workers to the region aware of the viruses and their risks. We also have a program put in place here whereby we can identify potentially infected patients and treat them,” she said 

The first cases of MERS were reported in Jeddah and then spread to other areas around the country, raising alarm over how the royal kingdom will contain a virus for which no known treatment exists. “We need the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates health authorities to take the stage and help us understand what’s going on,” Ian MacKay, an Associate Professor at the Australia Infectious Diseases Research Centre at The University of Queensland, had told international media.

“In 2014 so far we’ve had more cases than in all of 2013.” He added.

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