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Inspections focus on MERS threat

Update: June, 04/2015 - 09:30
Health officials inspect the Health Quarantine area at Noi Bai International Airport. — Photo chinhphu.vn

HA NOI (VNS) — Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long visited Noi Bai International Airport yesterday afternoon to check measures taken in response to a deadly outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

He applauded the airport's preparedness, especially the requirement that all passengers arriving from MERS-affected regions should fill in health declaration forms and go through the thermal camera system, which monitors body heat.

"I'm convinced that Viet Nam will be able to prevent the outbreak of MERS epidemic in the country," said the deputy health minister.

A representative of the Ha Noi Health Department's Centre for International Health and Quarantine said, "The centre has prepared a plan to intensify the measures to detect any case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which is caused by a novel Corona virus, at Noi Bai International Airport."

The plan considers three situations: first is when no passengers arriving on international flights shows any signs of the respiratory syndrome and yet the epidemic is likely to penetrate Viet Nam; the second situation is when Viet Nam detects in-flight passenger(s) on international flights suspected to contract MERS; and the third situation is when the epidemic spreads out in the community.

Yesterday, the Deputy Health Minister also discussed with the ministry's Emergency Operation Centre the steps to be taken to prevent MERS from entering Viet Nam.

Long said the ministry will closely coordinate with the National Administration of Tourism to update people travelling through international borders and airports [about MERS].

"The ministry will soon take measures to guide Vietnamese working in affected countries, including in the Middle East, to keep themselves safe from contracting the virus," Long revealed.

Meanwhile, the northern province of Lang Son, which has many border gates and hence witnesses a daily influx of visitors, has also strengthened all its resources to control the epidemic from entering the country.

Two state-of-the-art thermal monitors have been installed at the Huu Nghi International Border Gate, while another device has been installed at the Tan Thanh Border Gate.

Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Viet Nam's busiest airport, is stepping up measures to prevent passengers with MERS from entering the country.

According to HCM City Centre for International Health Quarantine, Tan Son Nhat Airport receives seven flights from South Korea, carrying a total of close to 1,000-1,200 passengers.

Nguyen Huu Hanh, deputy director of the centre, said they have prepared 50,000 forms to be filled by passengers coming from South Korea, in addition to stationing enough staff and thermal scanners.

The centre noted that it will coordinate with Tan Son Nhat Airport to ensure that those coming from South Korea will enter Viet Nam through a different entrance, while those showing MERS symptoms will be strictly quarantined.

In a meeting held yesterday with the representatives of the World Health Organisation, Luong Ngoc Khue, head of the Health Ministry's Medical Examination and Treatment Department, said that most of the epidemic cases in Viet Nam, such as SARS or H5N1, were detected in hospitals.

Khue remarked that MERS primarily causes flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, but these symptoms can easily be mistaken for other types of flu. After contracting the virus, a person can begin to show symptoms as early as two days or as late as 14 days.

According to WHO, health-care staff and caretakers can easily be infected, so they must take precautions against catching MERS. In addition, WHO has called for hospitals in Viet Nam to be prepared and train their staff on increasing awareness about the virus.

The Medical Examination and Treatment Department will send delegates to several hospitals in the south to examine preparations today.

So far, South Korea has recorded two deaths and 30 cases of MERS infection. — VNS

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