Preventative measures

File - A colorized transmission of the MERS coronavirus that emerged in 2012 (AP Photo/National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases via The Canadian Press)

Little is understood about MERS, the respiratory virus that has killed 126 in Saudi Arabia and has now arrived in Lebanon.

But in a refreshing development, the authorities here seem to be doing all they can to minimize the threat that the disease poses.

There is, as yet, no vaccine or treatment for the virus, which some believe originated in camels. When the Health Ministry reported the first case Thursday, it said it was doing so in a spirit of transparency and knowledge sharing.

This is a welcome change, for too often the Lebanese population is treated as undeserving of such honesty, or incapable of dealing with the realities of whatever situation, whether natural or manmade, is unfolding in the country at any given time.

It seems medical staff had already received training on how to deal with the virus and are now receiving refresher courses. At the airport, thermal imaging scanners are being erected to detect signs of fever, a symptom of MERS. All of these preventative measures are to be commended, as for the most part, the governmental attitude to crises is reactive rather proactive. This stance must be increasingly adopted across all sectors, and in relation to all threats, whether that be security incidents, road traffic accidents or building safety.

But all of this must be accompanied by a widespread awareness campaign, so that everyone across Lebanon, and not just those with access to and an appetite for news, are informed about the characteristics and symptoms of this potentially fatal virus before it is too late.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 10, 2014, on page 7.




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