If you’ll forgive a slight reworking of a famous line from Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger:
“Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times, it's an emerging infectious disease.”
At least that’s what sprang to mind last Sunday with the announcement from the Saudi Ministry of Health that a third coronavirus case from the Middle East had been indentified, and was responding to treatment (see Saudi Arabia MOH Announces Third Coronavirus Case.
06 Nov 2012
On 4 November, the Ministry of Health, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, posted a report on ProMed about a confirmed case of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus which has been temporarily named nCoV-EMC. The patient, who was diagnosed and treated in Riyadh, is recovering. He had not travelled outside of Riyadh but, like the two previously documented cases, had visited a farm prior to onset of symptoms. There are no details on the kind of farm he visited or details of specific animal contact. The coronavirus strain isolated from the current case has not yet been sequenced.
On 24 September 2012, ECDC published a Rapid Risk Assessment on Severe respiratory disease associated with a novel coronavirus. The novel coronavirus caused two confirmed severe cases, one of whom died. The reservoir and route of transmission of this virus has not been confirmed but there was an epidemiological link to exposure on the Arabian peninsula. There is no evidence of person-to-person transmission. An analysis of the relation of the hCoV-EMC showed that it was most closely related to bat coronaviruses.
The current information on this third case does not change the conclusions in the ECDC rapid risk assessment that the current risk is low, but offers an important opportunity to explore possible exposure and routes of transmission, should the strain be shown to be identical with the two isolates of the hCoV-EMC. ECDC continues to follow developments closely.
Read more on ECDC website:
The lack of any sign of human-to-human transmission is extremely encouraging, but as this assessment points out, there is a great deal we do not yet know about this virus.
Most importantly its primary (or even intermediate) host species have not been identified (although it is similar to viruses found in Bats in Hong Kong), nor has the mode of transmission been determined.
For now, this coronavirus remains an epidemiological mystery. One that researchers around the world are more than a little anxious to solve.