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Saudi Arabia reports 14 MERS cases in 3 days

Filed Under: MERS-CoV Jim Wappes | Editorial Director | CIDRAP News Feb 16, 2015

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The recent surge of MERS-CoV cases in Saudi Arabia continues, with 14 new cases reported in the past 3 days, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that it is sending investigators to help with preventive steps.

The 14 new cases of MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) reported by the Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH) are spread across the country and include 1 death. The agency also confirmed the death of a previously reported case-patient.

The MOH confirmed 5 MERS cases today, 3 yesterday, and 6 on Feb 14, bringing to 34 the total for the past 6 days and to 46 the total for the month so far. At least 7 of the 14 latest cases involve contact with another MERS-CoV patient. Two of the patients reported recent animal exposure.

Eight patients are expatriates, and two are healthcare workers (HCWs). The group also tilts younger, as 10 of them are in their 20s through 40s.

Three of the cases are in Riyadh; two each in Buraydah, Bureedah, Khobar, and Najran; and one in Al Jawf, Jeddah, and Ar Rass.


Five cases today
Today the MOH confirmed MERS-CoV in an 85-year-old Saudi man and a 34-year-old female expatriate in Riyadh. Both are in critical condition. Other cases involve a 58-year-old Saudi woman in Al Jawf, a 43-year-old female expatriate in Jeddah, and a 38-year-old male expatriate HCW in Khobar. All are hospitalized in stable condition.

The woman from Jeddah had contact with a MERS patient in the community, while the HCW from Khobar reported contact with a MERS patient in a healthcare setting. The two Riyadh patients and the woman in Al Jawf all have preexisting conditions.

Nine cases over the weekend
Yesterday's case-patients were a 35-year-old Saudi man and a 23-year-old male expatriate in Bureedah, which is in Riyadh Region, and a 54-year-old Saudi woman in Riyadh. The 35-year-old is listed in critical condition, while the others are in stable condition. All have preexisting disease.

The 54-year-old had contact with a MERS patient in the community, while the other two had contact with a MERS patient in a healthcare setting.

The six patients reported by the MOH on Feb 14 include two male expatriates, ages 41 and 42, in Buraydah in Al-Qassim Region, just to the north of Riyadh Region; a 31-year-old Saudi man and 47-year-old male expatriate in Najran; a 31-year-old female expatriate HCW in Khobar; and an 81-year-old Saudi man in Ar Rass, which is also in Al-Qassim Region.

The 41-year-old man in Buraydah died from his infection. The rest are listed in stable condition.

The 42-year-old and the 31-year-old in Najran were the only patients among those reported in the past 3 days that had recent animal exposure (the report doesn't specify what type). In addition, the 31-year-old in Najran also had contact with a MERS case in the community, and the 31-year-old woman in Khobar was exposed to a case in a hospital or clinic. Possible contact with a MERS patient in a healthcare setting is under investigation for the 41-year-old man who died.

The 81-year-old and 47-year-old men have preexisting conditions, as did the man who died.

The MOH also reported on Feb 14 that a 70-year-old Saudi man whose case was previously reported died of MERS-CoV. The agency added that a previously reported 31-year-old female HCW in Khobar—apparently not the same one noted today—has recovered from her infection.

MERS-CoV cases in Saudi have now reached 891 since 2012, including 372 deaths, the MOH said. Thirty-four patients are still hospitalized, and two are in home isolation.

WHO assistance
The WHO said on Feb 13 that it is deploying a mission to Riyadh this week at the request of the Saudi government to "take preventive measures for a possible upsurge of cases," the UN News Centre reported late last week.

"Little is known on the exact risk factors and the ways the diseases is transmitted, but close contact with camels and consuming raw camel milk ought to be definitely avoided," said the WHO's Peter Ben Embarek, PhD. He also mentioned the possibility of hospital-related outbreaks.

Globally, the WHO has confirmed 975 MERS cases, the story said.

This year's early spike in MERS-CoV cases is unusual; last year Saudi Arabia did not see a large increase until the spring.

In related news, health authorities have declared 11 contacts with a recent Filipino MERS case-patient to be free of the virus, the Singapore-based Strait Times reported yesterday. All 11 tested negative, but one was considered a probable case and held for further tests, according to the story.

The patient, a nurse who traveled from Saudi Arabia to the Philippines, tested positive last week.



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