Jakarta. A man in North Sumatra who died on Sunday after a trip from Saudi Arabia may have been the country’s first fatality from the Middle East respiratory syndrome, a medical official said on Tuesday.
“The victim, K.S., was suspected of having MERS because of the symptoms, including trouble breathing and high fever,” Luhur Soeroso, a doctor at Adam Malik General Hospital in Medan, said at a press conference as reported by Republika.co.id.
He said the 54-year-old had arrived back in Indonesia on Saturday from performing the umrah, or minor hajj, in Mecca. He had been hospitalized in Saudi Arabia before going home, and upon arriving in Indonesia was immediately taken to a clinic and later to the hospital.
He died less than two hours after being admitted to the hospital.
Luhur said the family had refused allow doctors to take a saliva sample to test for the coronavirus that causes the deadly MERS.
Officials are now checking on anyone K.S. may have had contact with, looking for signs of fever of any other indication of a viral infection, said Tjandra Yoga Aditama, the head of the Health Ministry’s research and development division.
He added the ministry had carried out tests on other people suffering from fever and respiratory problems after returning from Saudi Arabia. None of the test results came back positive for the coronavirus, he said.
Tjandra said Indonesia was closely watching all developments in the spread of MERS, ahead of the annual hajj in three months’ time. Every year Indonesia sends the largest contingent of pilgrims of any country to the hajj, which this year runs from late September to early October.
‘We still cannot predict the best anticipation for hajj because it is still three months from now. We need to monitor the developments in real time,” Tjandra said.
He said Indonesia was also monitoring ongoing studies about the virus to more accurately determine the how it was transmitted.
Tjandra said there had been 111 confirmed cases of MERS in Saudi Arabia since March, 31 of them fatal.
He said some people with existing medical conditions were more vulnerable to the infection, including those with diabetes, chronic lung disease, kidney problems and an impaired immune system.