Although the number of MERS infections being reported over the past few months pales compared to the numbers we saw last spring, we’ve seen a steady trickle of cases in Saudi Arabia over the last month, and on September 30th we saw Austria Report 1st Imported MERS Case (ex- KSA).
While the reasons are not fully understood, MERS is beginning to look as if it has a seasonal preference, with most cases reported during the spring and early summer.
Although occasional importations of the virus into Europe are expected, and this latest case in Austria doesn’t change their risk assessment, Yesterday the ECDC issued their 12th update and Rapid Risk Assessment on the MERS threat.
As we’ve come to expect from the ECDC, the background data, charts and maps provided in these updates is top notch – so follow the link to read the report in its entirety..
Twelfth update, 16 October 2014
- Taking into account the latest developments reflected in the most recent ECDC epidemiological update dated 1 October 2014  and WHO outbreak news on the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) dated 2 October 2014 , ECDC concludes that the assessed risk to the EU posed by the outbreak of MERS-CoV remains low, as stated in the most recent update of ECDC’s Rapid Risk Assessment, dated 21 August 2014 .
- The incidence of cases in September and October 2014 is slightly higher than in July and August 2014. This pattern was also observed in 2012 and 2013. The majority of MERS-CoV cases are still being reported from the Arabian Peninsula, specifically from Saudi Arabia, and all cases have epidemiological links to the outbreak epicentre.
- The latest importation to the EU is not unexpected and does not indicate a significant change in the epidemiology of the disease. Importation of MERS-CoV cases to the EU remains possible. However, the risk of sustained human-to-human transmission in Europe remains very low.
Current epidemiological situation
MERS-CoV case imported to Austria, reported by the Austrian Department of Health
On 30 September 2014, the Austrian Department of Health reported a laboratory confirmed MERS-CoV case with a recent travel history to Saudi Arabia . According to Austrian authorities, the 29-year-old female citizen of Saudi Arabia travelled by car from Riyadh to Affif in Saudi Arabia on 22 September from where she flew to Vienna, Austria via Doha in Qatar. She was symptomatic with an upper respiratory infection and fever prior to arrival in Austria. The patient sought medical care in Austria on 24 September and was admitted to a private hospital on 26 September from where she was transferred to the isolation ward of the reference hospital for highly infectious diseases in Vienna on 28 September 2014 . The patient is currently in a stable condition.
The MERS-CoV infection was laboratory confirmed on 29 September 2014. The patient has no history of exposure to camels or their products; no prior hospitalisation and no contact to a known MERS-CoV case or any sick person.
The case was symptomatic and assumed infectious prior to and during the flight to Austria. Therefore passengers and crew on the same flight with the MERS-CoV patient are being followed-up and personal data on the passengers and crew have been communicated to Qatar and Saudi Arabia . Contacts of the patient have been identified and informed about the disease and are being followed-up by the Austrian health authorities. According to the Ministry of Health of Austria, close contacts showing upper respiratory symptoms have been tested for MERS-CoV. The laboratory analyses were negative for all the contact persons tested .
Overall, 896 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV have been reported to the public health authorities worldwide, including 357 deaths as of 14 October 2014 (Figure 1).