Patient safety remains the main concern surrounding the management of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the GCC. Health experts in the region are calling for intensified measures to deal with the lack of environmental decontamination which can facilitate transmission of MERS-CoV.
Hospital engineering should integrate infection prevention in hospital design to help prevent emerging and re-emerging viruses.
Dr Mushira Enani, Assistant Professor, Head-Infectious Diseases Section, Program Director, Department of Medicine, King Fahad Medical City, Saudi Arabia, will be speaking about the urgent patient safety dilemmas concerning the management of MERS-CoV at the upcoming Patient Safety Middle East Exhibition & Conferences taking place from 16-18 September 2014 at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, UAE.
According to Dr Enani, “In my opinion, the top patient safety dilemmas in 2014 are lack of infection prevention and control, as well as environmental hygiene. In particular, hand hygiene is still suboptimal in many healthcare facilities in the region contributing to the spread of superbugs, and emerging viruses to patients consequently jeopardizing their safety. As we have learned, MERS-CoV clusters within hospitals were triggered by poor practice of infection prevention that lead to a surge of the virus in multiple hospitals in the Arabian Peninsula. Many hospitals within the GCC region lack the availability of negative pressure rooms and HEPA filters to deal with the surge of airborne respiratory infection.”
There are various ways of managing infections; however, the most important step is diagnosis. Introducing real time polymerase chain reaction test (PCR) – a diagnostic test for MERS-CoV in many hospitals around the GCC region – helped by rapid identification and containment of MERS-CoV which proved more efficient than sending specimens to a regional laboratory and waiting for the results for several days.
GCC hospitals have dealt with the MERS-CoV surge by increasing awareness of hospital staff by direct communication with upper management, frequent email reminders, introducing infection control quizzes to staff, transparency, and the management pathways of suspected, probable or confirmed cases.
Dr Enani believes that the multidisciplinary team efforts in facing the challenge of MERS-CoV were well-coordinated and successful; however, high risk situations such as the upcoming Haj pilgrimage is still a cause for concern.
“The two pilgrimages are usually extremely crowded and that creates a high risk environment for those taking part. We advise that pilgrims maintain a balanced diet, healthy sleeping habits, practice standard infection prevention precautions, maintain personal and respiratory hygiene (cough etiquette), avoiding handshakes with obviously ill people, and wear face masks in crowded places such as mosques. Frequent hand hygiene using rapid sanitizers is advised,” says Dr Enani.
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