NEWS

Health authorities on alert over MERS virus

A 69-year-old Greek man who has been in the intensive-care unit of Athens’s Sotiria hospital since he tested positive for the potentially fatal MERS virus on his arrival in the Greek capital from Saudi Arabia last week was in a critical but stable condition on Tuesday night, doctors said, as health authorities remained on high alert to stop the virus from spreading.

A total of 73 people believed to have come into contact with the man from the moment he boarded an airplane bound for Athens in Jeddah until the moment he was put under hospital quarantine have been given instructions on symptoms to look out for – fever, coughing, shortness of breath – over the next two weeks. They have been asked to immediately alert health authorities if any of these symptoms appear. Two of the 73 people exposed to the victim – his wife and the taxi driver who collected him from Athens International Airport last Thursday – have already undergone laboratory tests and tested negative for the virus.

The 69-year-old, who is a resident of Saudi Arabia, was visiting relatives for the Easter holidays when he displayed signs of the infection.

Officials at the Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO) have sent instructions to Greek hospitals on how to deal with possible outbreaks of MERS, a respiratory illness similar to SARS, which has claimed 93 lives since 2012, mostly in Saudi Arabia.

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