Date: Sun, 24 Jan 2016 11:55:36 +0100

Doha, Jan 24, 2016 (AFP) - Almost three million people visited Qatar in 2015, a record number for the energy-rich Gulf country, its tourism authority said on Sunday.   A total of 2.93 million people travelled to Qatar last year for a holiday, business or personal reasons, according to figures in an annual report released by the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA).

That represented an increase of almost four per cent on 2014, at a time when the country is looking to diversify its economy away from its reliance on gas and oil, which accounts for more than 50 per of GDP.   "The report shows that despite global developments, which have adversely affected travel patterns, Qatar has shown resilience as a burgeoning tourist destination with growing arrival figures and steady hotel occupancy rates," the QTA stated.   The largest number of visitors, 855,000, came from Saudi Arabia.

India provided more 375,000 visitors and the United Kingdom 135,000.    There was also an increase in the number of Chinese and French visitors in 2015.   Tourism contributed the equivalent of $3.7 billion (3.4 billion euros) to the economy in 2015, the QTA said, around two per cent of total GDP.   QTA forecasts up to nine million people will visit Qatar by 2030, allowing tourism to contribute to just over five percent of the total economy.
Date: Tue, 10 Feb 2015 11:47:12 +0100 (MET)

Doha, Feb 10, 2015 (AFP) - More than a million Qataris were given a day off work Tuesday to take part in a nationwide day of sport amid growing concern at obesity levels in the super-rich Gulf state.   Although the annual Qatar National Sport Day is meant to be a fun event with beach volleyball, jogging, fitness boot camps and even a screening of the boxing movie "Rocky", it contains a serious message.   Qatar, for all its recent association with sport, has a weight problem.   The first results from an on-going two-year study by the Qatar Biobank, a medical research facility, published at the beginning of this year found that 73 percent of Qataris were classified as "overweight or obese".

The same research -- covering 1,200 Qatari nationals and long-term expats -- also discovered that 76 percent of men and 70 percent of women are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease.   And only two in 10 Qataris do any kind of exercise each week.   Hadi Abderrahim, managing director of Qatar Biobank, says the obesity problem is "a lifestyle issue" and is typical of "a country (which) is growing and developing quickly".   The problem is so grave that accounting giant PwC has advocated that Qatar introduce a tax on fatty foods to encourage healthier eating.   National Sport Day locations also include "diet shops" and there are cash prizes offered for those Qataris who have lost the most weight throughout the year.   It is the fourth consecutive year Qatar has held the event, which gives the working population of more than 1.2 million people a day off -- traditionally on the second Tuesday in February.

Athletes such as British double gold medal Olympian runner Kelly Holmes were invited to attend.    Other events included a one kilometre children's run, beach tennis and a "5,000-step journey" -- a roughly 40-minute walk for families.   Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, secretary general of the Qatar Olympic Committee, said the Gulf state faced similar problems to other nations where driving to work, sitting in an office or in front of television or computer screens mean people are less active.   "It is a problem everywhere in the world," said the sheikh, a keen cyclist.   "The most important thing is to make awareness for sport for the whole year.    "It is not meant for one day. One day is like ... the wake-up call, to make you understand how sport is important in your life."
Date: 2 Feb 2015
Source: The Peninsula Qatar [edited]
<http://thepeninsulaqatar.com/news/qatar/319709/sch-reports-new-mers-case>

The Supreme Council of Health (SCH) has reported a new MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) case in Qatar, which is the 1st confirmed case since the beginning of this year [2015].

A 55 year old expatriate patient has tested positive for the deadly virus, the SCH said yesterday [1 Feb 2015]. The last MERS case in the country was reported in October last year [2014 - see MERS-CoV (52): Saudi Arabia, Qatar, WHO 20141104.2928160; MERS-CoV (42): Saudi Arabia, Qatar 20141024.2894667; and MERS-CoV (34): Qatar, Saudi Arabia, new case, RFI 20141012.2856064), involving a 43 year old citizen. The total number of MERS cases in Qatar has now reached a dozen.

The patient had been suffering from fever for 4 days along with joint pain. He was transferred to the Hamad General Hospital [in Doha] where he is currently undergoing treatment. The infection was confirmed after tests conducted at the national reference laboratory in Doha, SCH said.

"The Rapid Response Team of the SCH conducted an epidemiological investigation including line listing of all close contacts to the infected and initiated screening. Health education about preventive measures was given to the contacts while follow-up is on for any symptoms. Infection prevention and control measures in all health facilities have been re-enforced," said a SCH statement.

As a precaution, the SCH has advised people visiting farms, markets, barns, or other places where animals are present to practice general hygiene, including regular hand washing before and after touching animals, and avoiding contact with sick animals. People with diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease, and impaired immune responsiveness (immunocompromised) are considered to be at high risk of severe disease from MERS infection. They should avoid contact with camels, drinking raw camel milk, or eating meat that has not been properly cooked, SCH said.
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[The media report above reflects the SCH announcement released yesterday, 1 Feb 2015 (<http://www.sch.gov.qa/news/sch-reports-a-new-case-of-mers-cov?backArt=131>). In October 2014 there were 2 cases of MERS-CoV infection confirmed in Qatar (see prior ProMED-mail posts listed below). As a reminder, in the initial stages of recognition of the disease, 2 cases in Qatari nationals were treated in Europe -- one in the UK and the other in Germany.

The clinical description provided in the media report above (and on the SCH press release) is not a typical description -- fever and joint pains. Presumably there were respiratory symptoms leading the clinicians to send specimens for MERS-CoV testing. Information on possible high risk exposures would be greatly appreciated.

For the HealthMap/ProMED map of Qatar, see
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/130>. - ProMED Mod.MPP]
Date: 23 Oct 2014
Source: Qatar Supreme Council of Health [edited]
<http://www.sch.gov.qa/news/new-corona-virus-case-has-been-reported?backArt=326>

The Supreme Council of Health (SCH) has announced that a new Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) case has been reported for a Qatari patient aged 43 years old. The patient has had fever for a few days and was transported by ambulance to the Emergency Department at Hamad General Hospital. Upon assessment and laboratory investigations, the patient was diagnosed with pneumonia and subsequently confirmed as a MERS-CoV case.

As soon as the Health Protection Rapid Response Team got the notification, a series of standard investigation and contact tracing steps were implemented. These include verifying whether contacts have any symptoms and collecting specimens. All contacts will be monitored for 2 weeks. Within the same framework, a joint team from Human Health and Animal Resources started an investigation involving camels and individuals in contact with them for specimen collection and follow up.

Medical follow up reports indicated that the previous case diagnosed with MERS-CoV is improving and now is stable. He is still under standardized infection prevention and control measures. In addition, all of his contacts tested negative for MERS-CoV, and none have developed any similar symptoms so far.

SCH has alerted all healthcare providers in the country to stay alerted and report any suspected case and is urging all healthcare workers to strictly abide by infection prevention and control measures. SCH will continue to stress the importance of epidemiological surveillance, case management and isolation with infection prevention and control, and health education on preventive measures recommended so far.

SCH urges all citizens to follow recommended infection prevention and control measures, such as keeping away from camels and not visiting farms and camel barns, especially those with weak immune systems. Visitors to farms or camel barns should comply with standard personal hygiene and hand washing before and after handling camels, staying away from sick animals.
========================
[This is the the 2nd case reported by Qatar since November 2013 and the 9th case of laboratory confirmed MERS-CoV infection, including 4 deaths reported by Qatar since 2012. The previously reported case was on 12 Oct 2014 in a 77 year old man who was visiting Saudi Arabia when he became symptomatic. It was unclear at the time whether the individual's exposure occurred in Qatar prior to travel to Saudi Arabia, or whether it occurred in Saudi Arabia (see MERS-CoV (34): Qatar, Saudi Arabia, new case, RFI 20141012.2856064). From the details provided in the Supreme Council of Health Statement above, the current case was not a known contact of the case confirmed earlier this month, October 2014, (all contacts of the earlier case have tested negative for MERS-CoV). Information on possible high risk exposures to camels, possible travel history or history of pre-existing co-morbidities are not presently available.

More information on results of investigations into possible high risk exposures of both this currently reported case as well as the earlier case reported on 12 Oct 2014 would be greatly appreciated.

For a map of Qatar, see <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/130>. - ProMed Mod.MPP]
Date: 12 Oct 2014
Source: Gulf Times / QNA (Qatar News Agency) [edited]
<http://www.gulf-times.com/qatar/178/details/411917/qatari-man-in-hospital-after-contracting-mers>

The Supreme Council of Health [SCH] has confirmed the 1st case of MERS coronavirus for 2014.

A 71-year-old Qatari man with a history of diabetes is receiving treatment in hospital. The diagnosis was confirmed at the national reference laboratory in Doha.

SCH stated that the patient became ill when he was visiting Saudi Arabia. He was travelling by road to Al-Ahsa city and had to be hospitalised after becoming ill. He was then transferred to Qatar by air ambulance and was in quarantine and isolation.

The Rapid Response Team of the SCH conducted an epidemiological investigation including line listing of all close contacts to the case and initiated screening.

Health education about appropriate preventive measures was given to the contacts along with close follow-up for any symptoms.

Infection prevention and control measures in all health facilities have been reinforced by the SCH.
======================
[This is the 1st case reported by Qatar since November 2013. This now makes the 8th case of laboratory confirmed MERS-CoV infection, including 4 deaths reported by Qatar since 2012. While there is mention that the onset of illness occurred while in Saudi Arabia, from the information available, it is not clear whether the individual was in Saudi Arabia for the entire incubation period, or whether exposure could have occurred in Qatar with onset of illness while travelling to Saudi Arabia.

There have been numerous prior reports of identification of MERS-CoV infection in camels in Qatar (see prior ProMED-mail reports listed below). The media report does not mention whether there is a history of camel exposure in Qatar or in Saudi Arabia. Clearly, more information is necessary before drawing conclusions on the possible exposures of this case.

For a map of Qatar, see <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/130>. - ProMed Mod.MPP]
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