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New virus threats emerging, expert says

Virologist says drug-resistant bacteria is a big threat

Gulf News

Dubai: As the global population increases and puts pressure on animal and bird habitats, viruses such as Mers coronavirus are the new threats to humans, a global hygiene expert said.

Mers or Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, is said to have jumped from bats to camels. “There is a bat pool [of the virus] in Saudi Arabia,” said the virologist.

The expert said personal hygiene is very important at this time as movement of people across the globe becomes easy. “I could go out and visit a camel farm and the next day I could be in London or Ireland,” he said.

“The other big threat is drug-resistant bacteria,” Professor John Oxford, chairman of the Global Hygiene Council and Professor of Virology at St Barts, UK, said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting of the Arab Hygiene Council in Dubai, the expert said as the new threat unravels, the great discovery of penicillin is in danger of being dissipated. “Misuse of antibiotics is pushing us into the post-antibiotic era,” he said.

The professor warned that as bacterial resistance grows, many of us will be hesitant to undergo procedures or surgeries because of the scare of being infected. “This has never happened before and has happened due to misuse of antibiotics,” he said.

In the UAE, antibiotics are available over the counter (OTC) and many patients use the drugs even if they are infected by a virus, against which an antibiotic does not work.

The professor said a study on people’s homes in the UAE and around the world, found that homes are a common source of infection. “The kitchen is neglected as you bring in material such as fruits and vegetables, chicken and meat, “ he said. The virologist said the “weak spot” in the kitchen is the sponge or the small towel. “It is not just here, but in the UK, US also, that everyone is transporting the virus and bacteria in their own kitchens,” he said.

“Use a disinfectant to clean the sponge or change it frequently,” said the virologist.