Abu Dhabi: The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) and measures to prevent and control communicable diseases will top the agenda of the Federal National Council’s session on Tuesday.
Rashid Mohammad Al Shuraiqi, a member from Ras Al Khaimah, will put a question to Abdul Rahman Mohammad Al Owais, Minister of Health, concerning efforts being made to prevent the spread of Mers in the UAE.
The Ministry of Health confirmed last week all hospitals in the UAE were now free of Mers.
Officials have stressed that residents should listen to information released by the ministry and health authorities. They also said they are closely monitoring the situation to “ensure public health and safety”.
In May, WHO acknowledged growing concern about the virus, which can cause a potentially fatal respiratory illness, but said it was not a global health emergency because there was no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission.
There have been 37 laboratory-confirmed Mers cases in the UAE since late March while, worldwide, Mers has infected at least 536 people and killed 145 since the first case was diagnosed in June 2012. There have been 330 cases, including 59 deaths, worldwide since the end of March.
The Health Minister will also be quizzed about the poor health services in the northern emirates by Dr Shaikha Eisa Al Ari, a member from Umm Al Quwain.
The House will discuss a new legislation about communicable diseases. Under the draft law, a person who knowingly exposes another to a communicable disease can face up to five years in prison, a fine of up to Dh100,000 or both for failing to comply with control measures.
According to the draft law, which requires approval by the House before being signed into law by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a “communicable disease” is defined as an illness that occurs through the transmission of an infectious agent or its toxic products from a reservoir to a susceptible host, either directly or indirectly.
The draft law requires immediate reporting to the health authorities by physicians, medical technicians and chemists after their first professional encounter with people known or suspected to be infected with certain diseases including anthrax, cholera, avian influenza, HIV/Aids, hepatitis (A and E) and tuberculosis (pulmonary and extra-pulmonary), among others.
Leprosy, malaria, measles, meningitis, plague and smallpox would also be among a list of nearly 30 contagious diseases that have to be reported immediately. Chicken pox, influenza, mumps, scabies, typhoid and paratyphoid, hepatitis (B,C,D) and other zoonotic ailments or relating to an animal disease that can infect humans would be reported to authorities within a week.
People who know or suspect they are infected with any communicable disease will be barred from travelling anywhere except a clinic to seek health care, unless otherwise permitted by the Health Ministry.
Travellers who have or are carriers of a communicable disease will also be denied entry to the UAE unless they report their disease to the Ministry of Health and obtain its consent. They also have to inform authorities immediately on arrival in the country.
The Health Ministry and medical institutions will examine visitors and residents to ensure they do not have a communicable diseases as mentioned in a Cabinet resolution.
Patients with communicable diseases will not be subjected to any special restrictions or conditions, which bar them from their legal rights as enshrined in the UAE’s laws, states the bill.
Information related to patients or suspected patients with communicable diseases such as medical records and medical history shall not be disclosed, unless disclosure is required by law.
The bill encourages residents to undergo voluntary medical examination to ensure they are free from any communicable disease. Those found to be patients with communicable diseases can get treatment at government hospitals as long as their visas are valid, and can have their visas renewed if they are medically fit.