AMMAN — The Ministry of Health will launch a nationwide monitoring campaign for the detection of any potential cases of novel coronavirus, Health Minister Abdul Latif Wreikat said on Sunday.

Following the confirmation of the novel coronavirus in two Jordanians who died in April, the ministry, in cooperation with the World Health Organisation (WHO), will keep an eye on cases of acute respiratory diseases and test them for the virus, Wreikat added.

A team of WHO experts is currently in Jordan to assist in further epidemiological surveillance and to strengthen the sentinel surveillance system for severe acute respiratory infections.

In a sentinel surveillance system, a designated group of reporting sources — hospitals, agencies — agrees to report all cases of one or more notifiable conditions.

Wreikat explained that the delayed confirmation of the disease in the deaths registered in April is due to the unavailability of the “reagents” used to diagnose this virus.

A reagent is a substance used for the detection or determination of another substance by chemical or microscopic means.

At a press conference on Sunday, he said when the deaths of a 25-year-old man and a nurse working at Zarqa Public Hospital were registered in April, the ministry asked for the WHO’s collaboration and sent samples to the Centre for Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases (NAMRU-3) in Egypt to assist in the laboratory investigation.

On April 24, 2012, the NAMRU-3 team informed the health ministry that all samples had tested negative for known coronaviruses and other respiratory viruses.

As the novel coronavirus had not yet been discovered, no specific tests for it were available, according to the WHO website.

In October 2012, after the discovery of the novel coronavirus, the ministry sent stored samples to NAMRU-3 and in November, the centre provided laboratory results that confirmed two cases of infection with the novel coronavirus, the WHO website said.

According to WHO representative in Jordan Akram Eltom, the novel coronavirus has now been confirmed in nine people in three countries in the Middle East: Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

He told reporters that the disease does not spread quickly and its symptoms are similar to respiratory illnesses and include fever, coughing, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which are known to cause illness in humans and animals.

This novel strain has never been previously detected in humans or animals, according to the WHO.

“Based on current information, it does not appear to transmit easily between people, unlike the SARS virus,” the WHO said.

The new virus shares some of the symptoms of SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which emerged in China in 2002, spread easily among people and killed around a tenth of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide.

Coronavirus

  • Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses
  • Different members of this family cause illness in humans and animals
  • In humans, these illnesses range from the common cold to infection with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (SARS CoV)
  • Although the novel coronavirus is distantly related to the SARS CoV, they are different
  • Based on current information, it does not appear to transmit easily between people, unlike the SARS virus

Source: WHO