Event based surveillance of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS- CoV) in Bangladesh among pilgrims and travelers from the Middle East: An update for the period 2013-2016.PLoS One. 2018; 13(1):e0189914.Plos
Every year around 150,000 pilgrims from Bangladesh perform Umrah and Hajj. Emergence and continuous reporting of MERS-CoV infection in Saudi Arabia emphasize the need for surveillance of MERS-CoV in returning pilgrims or travelers from the Middle East and capacity building of health care providers for disease containment. The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control & Research (IEDCR) under the Bangladesh Ministry of Health and Family welfare (MoHFW), is responsible for MERS-CoV screening of pilgrims/ travelers returning from the Middle East with respiratory illness as part of its outbreak investigation and surveillance activities.
Bangladeshi travelers/pilgrims who returned from the Middle East and presented with fever and respiratory symptoms were studied over the period from October 2013 to June 2016. Patients with respiratory symptoms that fulfilled the WHO MERS-CoV case algorithm were tested for MERS-CoV and other respiratory tract viruses. Beside surveillance, case recognition training was conducted at multiple levels of health care facilities across the country in support of early detection and containment of the disease.
Eighty one suspected cases tested by real time PCR resulted in zero detection of MERS-CoV infection. Viral etiology detected in 29.6% of the cases was predominantly influenza A (H1N1 and H3N2), and influenza B infection (22%). Peak testing occurred mostly following the annual Hajj season.
Respiratory tract infections in travelers/pilgrims returning to Bangladesh from the Middle East are mainly due to influenza A and influenza B. Though MERS-CoV was not detected in the 81 patients tested, continuous screening and surveillance are essential for early detection of MERS-CoV infection and other respiratory pathogens to prevent transmissions in hospital settings and within communities. Awareness building among healthcare providers will help identify suspected cases.