Indonesia monitoring suspected MERS cases

The Indonesian government is warning pilgrims about a viral respiratory disease that spread rapidly in Saudi Arabia in recent weeks.

By Alisha Nurhayati for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

May 09, 2014
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At least two Indonesians who recently returned from Saudi Arabia have died, raising fears that an outbreak of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the Kingdom has reached the archipelago.

  • Health officials are urging pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia to take precautions against an outbreak there of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus. [Fayez Nureldine/AFP]

    Health officials are urging pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia to take precautions against an outbreak there of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus. [Fayez Nureldine/AFP]

So far, a man who died in Medan on Sunday and another in Denpasar on Wednesday (May 7th) are suspected to have succumbed to MERS, local media reported.

In addition, three residents of Pekanbaru are being treated in isolation for MERS symptoms – high fevers and difficulty breathing, according to the Jakarta Globe.

"They've just returned from the minor hajj and have MERS indicators," the Globe quoted Riau Health Agency head Zainal Arifin as saying.

As of Wednesday, though Indonesia had not issued any updated advisories or warnings on travel to Saudi Arabia, in comments to reporters, Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi urged the elderly and other vulnerable groups to postpone pilgrimages.

"It is advisable to postpone Umrah or hajj this year if you have any of the following conditions: chronic pain, low immunity, age over 65, pregnancy or are a child under the age of 12," she said according to

Getting the word out

The government announced May 2nd it would work with Saudi Arabia and other nations to contain the health threat, Antara reported. The Health Ministry also notified Indonesians travelling to Saudi to take precautions.

As many as 138 cases of MERS were identified in Saudi Arabia between April 11th-26th, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). As of April 26th, WHO counted 261 lab-confirmed cases worldwide since September 2012, including 95 fatalities.

On April 27th, a 61-year-old Indonesian man living in Saudi Arabia died of the virus in a Jeddah hospital, Tjandra Yoga Aditama, director general of disease control and environment health director for the Health Ministry, told reporters.

The government will follow up by tracking down people who interacted with him, he said.

"We will continue this process for the next two weeks with the Indonesian Consulate in Saudi Arabia, as well as with the World Health Organisation. We will also have a meeting with future Muslim pilgrims from Indonesia to ensure their safe travel," Tjandra told Khabar Southeast Asia.

Because as many as 250,000 Indonesians go on hajj every year, the government is busy informing travellers about the risks of exposure to MERS, Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali said.

"With this huge number of people, every citizen must be aware of this virus. Every citizen is responsible to look after (his) health and resilience while performing hajj," he told reporters.

Despite the health scare, Jakarta resident Farida Manti said she planned to join the throngs of Muslims from across the globe converging on Mecca in early October for the hajj.

"I only can take preventative measures to avoid this virus. However, I will not cancel the pilgrim trip. I have been planning this for years," Farida, who plans to attend with seven relatives, told Khabar.

Reader Comments
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    • udun
      May 23, 2014 @ 08:05:41AM
    • The Prophet SAW said: If you get wind of the outbreak of tha'un plague in a land, you should not enter it; and if it spreads in the land where you are, you should not depart from the land to run away from it.'' Thereupon Umar RA praised Allah and went back home to Medina (Muttafaq 'alaih) - See more at:
    • Saeful Bahri
      May 22, 2014 @ 08:05:35AM
    • Death is in the hands of Allah SWT. If we are faithful then why should we fear what is happening right now? Leave it to Allah. If we analyze this, it is a warning from Allah. The Hajj and Umrah have been made into opportunities for business. Of course, one real example is corruption of the Hajj funds, not to mention other funds. We go to Mecca not for vacationing but purely for worship, carrying out the fifth pillar of Islam.
      May 25, 2014 @ 01:05:51PM
    • Faith that is not rooted in reason is a blind faith. We should not just give in but we must try and take an initiative before giving in to Allah, for, example, through vaccines, vitamins, masks and sterilizing the Hajar Aswad from germs, bacteria and viruses, from mucus and the breaths of the diseased that cling to the Hajar Aswad. This is so people do not get infected. It is better to give a far away kiss by using our palm and kissing it. I have observed that many people who had suffered from cough and the flu are infected by viruses clinging on the Hajar Aswad, which they kissed. After preventative measures are carried out, then you can give in to Allah. What we must realize is that if the virus is brought to Indonesia and infects Muslims and non-Muslims, who would be to blame? What is the use of seeking rewards when we end up tormenting and harming others?
    • s2d
      May 21, 2014 @ 08:05:35PM
    • Allah has purified Saudi Arabia. We do not need to worry about going there as long as we do so with a pure heart, lilahitala.
    • dwi okta
      May 15, 2014 @ 01:05:25AM
    • Great.
    • markjuliansmith
      May 12, 2014 @ 11:05:45AM
    • "and currently more pressing—is what is behind the extraordinary surge of cases over the past five weeks? The cumulative global case count more than doubled last month. Saudi Arabia alone has reported upward of 250 cases since the beginning of April; prior to that, only 207 cases had ever been reported globally." Having a look at the mapping as well, could this be a weaponized version or is it too complex to create and/or deliver?

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