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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

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12 more cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in Saudi Arabia

Camels are suspected to be the likely source of animal to human MERS infection.

There has been a sudden increase in the incidence of MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) cases in Saudi Arabia recently, as 12 more cases of MERS have emerged. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that the recent pattern of cases suggests that the reasons for the increased spread of this disease are still unclear. Most of the cases are middle-aged patients engaged in the healthcare profession. However the symptoms among most of these healthcare workers are minor.

During a risk assessment update, the has WHO predicted that more cases will continue to emerge in the Middle East and other regions, until the pathway of this virus from animals to humans is identified and blocked.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has written in Eurosurveillance report that; WHO should consider declaring it as an international health concern.

Jeddah has become the epicenter of MERS activity in Saudi Arabia, with 5 other cases emerging in Riyadh and One case in Mecca too. According to a statement from Ministry of Health, six of these recent case-patients are in a stable condition with 5 of them in the Intensive care unit.

So far the Ministry of Health has reported two fatalities in previously reported cases, of a 68-year-old patient in Mecca and a 72-year-old woman in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia has reported 297 cases and 85 deaths so far, but a few new cases are also being cited. The new cases include patients from Syria, Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, and Palestine too.

According to media reports, Saudi Arabia’s health minister had been reassigned and replaced by the labor minister, Adel bin Mohammad Faqih, who is serving in an acting capacity. Faqih has pledged to adhere to “the principles of transparency and disclosure with all media outlets” and the public.

The WHO has also reported a MERS case hospitalized in Zarqa Jordan, and this patient is a Saudi national aged 25-years. This patient had traveled to Abha, Mecca, and Jeddah just before his illness was diagnosed. He also had contact with camels, which are regarded as a likely source of human cases, and is reported to have drunk camel milk. The increased incidence occurs near the end of the camel-calving season.

In a risk assessment, the WHO has observed that the flow of MERS cases has increased sharply since mid-March, in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is being suspected that MERS cases “seems to follow a seasonal pattern, with increasing incidence from March-April onwards.” It was reported that; Upto 75% of the recent cases are secondary ones (transmitted from other people). here have been very few instances of household transmission. Some of the cases have been recently exported through tourists, from the Middle East to Greece, Jordan, Malaysia, and the Philippines, with no further transmission so far.

The global MERS cases count is 345 cases and 107 deaths so far. “MERS-CoV infections present with a high case-fatality ratio, multiple transmission routes are suspected. Apparently it will require a joint intervention from veterinary as well as human health authorities worldwide. The Saudi authorities have officially appointed an “independent medical consultant” to help address the MERS epidemic. He is Tariq Ahmed Madani, MBBS, a professor of internal medicine and infectious diseases at King Abdulaziz University.

April 25, 2014

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