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Indonesia on alert after first suspected MERS fatality

Publication Date : 06-05-2014


A man in Medan, North Sumatra, was suspected to have died on Monday from the viral respiratory illness, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), shortly after returning from a minor haj in Saudi Arabia.

The 54-year-old, known as KS, was being treated at the Adam Malik Medan Hospital when he died.

Hospital spokesperson Sairi Saragih said KS entered the hospital at 10:20 a.m. and was pronounced dead at 2.35pm from what physicians concluded was an illness with symptoms similar to MERS.

“He was suffering from a suspected case of MERS with symptoms such as breathing difficulty, fever and a cough,” Sairi said.

“However, the patient passed away before we were able to confirm that he was infected with the virus.”

According to Sairi, KS had been receiving treatment at the nearby Permata Bunda Medan Hospital before he was transferred to Adam Malik.

According to Umar Zein, one of the physicians who first treated KS at Permata Bunda Medan Hospital, KS was admitted to the hospital on Saturday evening.

After a day of treatment, the physician suspected KS had been infected by the MERS virus.

“This is the first suspected case of MERS in Indonesia. Because of that, we simply could not handle his case alone, which is why we referred him to the Adam Malik

hospital to get as much assistance as possible,” Zein told The Jakarta Post.

However, the Health Ministry’s National Institute of Health Research and Development chief, Tjandra Yoga Aditama, said that the Medan case was “inconclusive” as he had yet to receive a laboratory sample. “Given the insufficient facilities at the hospital to analyze the sample, we required them to send it to us in order to confirm the virus,” he said.

According to the ministry, it would take two days for the lab in Jakarta to confirm the virus.

As of April 30, there have been 27 suspected cases of Indonesians contracting the MERS virus in Bali, Jakarta, Central Java, East Java, Riau Islands, Riau and South

Sumatra. However, they have all been declared negative by the Health Ministry.

The MERS virus first emerged two years ago in Saudi Arabia and the country remains the epicenter of the virus.

It belongs to the coronavirus family along with the common cold and SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which caused some 800 deaths globally in 2003.

The MERS virus has been found in camels, but officials don’t know how it is spreading.

The death toll from MERS has topped 115, according to Saudi health authorities on Monday.

The virus has been found in more than 13 countries, including Malaysia and the United States.

In anticipation of an outbreak, Coordinating People’s Welfare Minister Agung Laksono has called a joint-ministerial meeting to discuss what the government would do to handle the spread of the coronavirus.

“Although the World Health Organization [WHO] has not yet determined MERS is an epidemic, we will not sit on our hands,” said Agung.

“We won’t risk an outbreak. We were successful in our previous handling of the bird flu outbreak, which had a fatality rate of 82 per cent,” Agung said, adding that the fatality rate for MERS was at 35.92 per cent.


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