Oman on alert against deadly virus

Oman’s Health Ministry has put out an alert for the deadly West Nile fever following the discovery of an equine form of the virus, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Government departments were instructed to keep a close watch and doctors advised to conduct specific tests when investigating suspected cases of meningitis, encephalitis or any unknown fever, the Oman Daily Observer said.

The new measures follow the “limited outbreak” of West Nile fever in horses in March. The diagnosis was confirmed by the University of Pretoria in South Africa and a national diseases committee made up of officials from the health, agriculture and fisheries ministries met to formulate a response.

The committee decided to conduct small sample surveys to detect virus antibodies, if any, in animals and human beings.

The Central Public Health Laboratory has also notified hospitals that testing will be made available for suspected West Nile infection in all unknown cases, the paper said.

Officials stressed that to date there have been no instances of infection in humans in the sultanate.

West Nile virus, first discovered in 1937 in Uganda, is a mosquito-borne viral infection that can cause fatal inflammation of the brain. The virus’ natural hosts are believed to be migrating birds.—Sapa-AFP

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