Saudi-based Indian nurse infected with coronavirus, but not Wuhan strain

Indian Consulate in Jeddah confirms nurse has been found positive for MERS-CoV and not 2019-NCoV (Wuhan) strain

Beijing's city government has ordered international arrivals from Monday onwards to go into quarantine facilities for 14 days.

A 38-year-old Indian nurse, working in a Saudi Arabia hospital has tested positive for coronavirus of a different strain, from one that left 18 dead in China, the Indian Consulate in Jeddah said on Thursday (January 24).

Media reports said the affected nurse was from Ettumannur in Kerala’s Kottayam district.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs V Muraleedharan broke the news earlier on Thursday through a tweet. He said the nurse, a resident of Kerala was among 100 nurses working at Al-Hayat hospital, who were tested for the virus.

Responding to Muraleedharan’s tweet, the Indian Consulate in Jeddah clarified that the nurse although has been found positive for coronavirus, was suffering from MERS-CoV and not 2019-NCoV (Wuhan).

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“Dr Tarik Al Azraqi, Chairman, Scientific Regional Infection Control Committee, Aseer Region, has confirmed that the Indian Nurse being treated at Aseer National Hospital is suffering from MERS-CoV ; not 2019-NCoV (Wuhan). We request everyone to refrain from sharing incorrect info,” it said in the tweet.

Some nurses working at the Al-Hayat hospital have been isolated and put under observation.

One of the nurses told a Malayalam news channel over the phone they were herded in two rooms of the hospital for more than a day. She claimed no tests were done and no treatment was provided to them. We have lodged a complaint with the Indian embassy officials, she said.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also wrote to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to take urgent steps in ensuring expert treatment and protection to those affected from the virus in Saudi.

“The government should get in touch with its counterpart in Saudi Arabia and take urgent steps including ensuring expert treatment and protection to those affected from the virus. The matter should be viewed seriously,” the letter read.

State Health Minister KK Shyalaja said those who have returned from China should inform district medical officers besides instructing officials to step up surveillance in all four airports — Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Kozhikode, and Kannur — in the state.

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The Indian Embassy in China has set up hotlines for assisting the Indians living in the Wuhan and Huanggang cities of China’s Hubei province. Chinese officials assured all assistance, including food supply, to the Indians who stayed put in the province, the Indian Embassy said in a press release on Thursday.

The novel coronavirus was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which is currently under lockdown with all urban transport networks shut. Trains and planes out of Wuhan were indefinitely suspended. So far, it has claimed 17 lives and affected nearly 550 people.

The coronavirus strain of 2019-NCoV (Wuhan) has so far infected 830 people in the Wuhan city of China in Hubei province of which 25 have died. Cases have also been reported from Xinjiang and Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, as well as in the US, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.

(With inputs from agencies)