Suspected SARS cases hit Middle East

Health officials throughout the Middle East are holding their breath after Saudia Arabia and Jordan announce suspected SARS cases.

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By  John Irish Published  April 21, 2003

Officials in Jordan and Saudi Arabia reported the first suspected cases of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in their respective countries on April 18 and 19.

In Saudi Arabia, a Philippine national, who arrived on a Singapore Airlines flight into Jeddah was taken for tests and put into isolation for 10 days, the recommended incubation period.

“Initial medical tests for SARS have been negative. But the man will be kept under observation for further check ups,” Khaled Al Merghalani, public relation’s chief for the Saudi Ministry of Health told AFP.

In the Hashemite Kingdom, Health Minister Waleed Al Maa’ni confirmed that a doctor in a private hospital had informed the ministry about a suspected case of SARS. The patient, as well as several people he had been in contact with, was placed into quarantine.

Health officials in the UAE were quick to allay fears that the disease had spread to their shores. A spokesmen from the World Health Organisation (WHO) had confirmed on April 10 that there were suspected cases of atypical pneumonia in the UAE. However, on April 16, the UAE’s Minister of Health, Hamad Abdul Rahman AL Madfa, acknowledging that 5 people had been confined, stressed that they were given the all clear.

These latest reports of suspected SARS cases come just two weeks after the Kuwait Times reported that an American expatriate, returning to the Emirate from South East Asia had contracted the virus.

According to the WHO on April 18, SARS has now claimed the lives of 170 people worldwide and infected almost 3,500.

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