Abu Dhabi: Six paramedics have been infected by the Middle East Respiratory coronavirus (Mers-CoV) and one of them has died, the UAE Ministry of Interior (MoI) confirmed in a statement on Friday.
The five other patients have been quarantined for observation and treatment, the ministry confirmed.
The patients are all from the Philippines and are aged below 40.
They work with the MoI in Al Ain and were diagnosed after a routine medical check up.
Authorities still do not know how the paramedics got infected, but it is likely they were exposed while dealing with elderly patients, a source at the UAE Ministry of Health’s (MoH) Infection Control Committee told Gulf News. The majority of Mers infections in the UAE have occurred among elderly, chronically-ill people.
The announcement was made in order to ensure transparency and keep residents informed, the MoI announced on its Twitter page.
It added that people who have recently been in contact with the paramedics have also been reached to ensure that they are healthy.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), as well as the Embassy of Philippines, has been informed about the latest cases, the MoH source said.
As of the latest update released by the WHO on Thursday, 211 people worldwide have been infected by Mers-CoV since September 2012, and 88 patients have succumbed to the disease.
This count does not include the Filipino paramedics in the UAE.
Health experts have said that the transmission of the virus, which has a 40 to 50 per cent mortality rate, is still limited.
But the WHO urges healthcare workers to take strict precautions.
“Health-care workers should be educated, trained and refreshed with skills on infection prevention and control. It is not always possible to identify patients with Mers-CoV easily because some have mild or unusual symptoms.
"For this reason, it is important that workers apply standards [and] precautions consistently with all patients — regardless of their diagnosis — in all work practices all the time,” the WHO’s disease outbreak report states.
The entity recommends that medical professionals guard against droplets when caring for all patients displaying symptoms of acute respiratory infection, and wear contact and eye protection when treating a probable or confirmed case of Mers-CoV infection.
“Patients should be managed as potentially infected when the clinical and epidemiological clues strongly suggest MERS-CoV, even if an initial test is negative,” the WHO report adds.
In July last year, four medical professionals from two hospitals in Abu Dhabi were also infected by Mers after they had taken care of another patient with the disease.
They were all aged less than 40 years, and two of them did not develop symptoms of the illness. The other two patients had mild respiratory symptoms and were soon declared to be in stable condition.
Saudi Mers cases
The Mers death and quarantine in the UAE comes four days after the emergency unit at King Fahad Hospital in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah was shuttered as a precautionary measure amid reports that several people fell ill with Mers coronavirus.
Earlier this week, Saudi health authorities reported the deaths of another two men and four new cases of Mers, bringing the death toll from the respiratory disease in the worst-hit country to 66.
At least 11 medical staff have been reported to have contracted the virus, a spokesperson at the King Fahad hospital said.