While are understandably focused on Ebola, there are other emerging viral infections out there that could – if they they began to spread efficiently among humans – pose an even bigger global threat than Ebola. Among those are the various flavors of avian flu (H5N1, H7N9, H5N6, etc.) and the MERS coronavirus.
Although the number of MERS cases has dropped over the summer, we continue to see a small trickle of cases in Saudi Arabia. The latest World Health Organization update lists 7 new cases, 4 of whom report frequent contact with camels or camel products.
The exact role of camels in the transmission of MERS to humans has yet to be established, but increasingly camels are being viewed as a likely zoonotic source of the virus (see EID Journal: Replication & Shedding Of MERS-CoV In Inoculated Camels).
Last September we saw the KSA MOH Reiterates Camel Warnings On MERS.
Disease outbreak news
16 October 2014
The National IHR Focal Point of Saudi Arabia (SAU) has reported additional laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) to WHO.
Between 29 September and 11 October 2014, 7 additional cases of MERS-CoV infection were reported, including 1 death, with details as follows:
- A 69 year old male from Taif City who developed symptoms on 17 September 2014. The patient has comorbidities and his possible contact with animals and consumption of raw camel products is currently under investigation.
- A 65 year old male from Jubail City who developed symptoms on 24 September 2014. The patient has comorbidities, frequent contact with camels and frequently consumes raw camel milk.
- A 70 year old male from Alhenakiah City who developed symptoms on 24 September 2014. The patient has comorbidities, frequent contact with camels and frequently consumes raw camel milk.
- A 60 year old male from Geiya city who developed symptoms on 1 October 2014. The patient has comorbidities, frequent contact with camels and frequently consumes raw camel milk.
- A 51 year old male from Haradh City who developed symptoms on 30 September 2014. The case died on 05 October 2014. The patient had comorbidities, frequent contact with camels and frequently consumed raw camel milk.
- A 77 year old male from Taif City who developed symptoms on 3 October 2014. The patient has comorbidities and became infected while hospitalized.
- A 50 year old non-national male from Najran City who developed symptoms on 3 October 2014. He reported no history of contact with animals, but resides in an area with heavy presence of camel farms.
The tracing of household contacts is ongoing for these cases.
In addition, the deaths of 4 previously reported MERS-CoV cases from Saudi Arabia were also reported.
Cases identified in SAU following a retrospective review
Following a retrospective review of laboratory records in non-Ministry of Health hospitals, the National IHR Focal Point of SAU has also reported 19 additional cases of MERS-CoV infection, including 11 deaths. Of the additional cases, 1 occurred in August 2013, 2 occurred in March 2014, 10 occurred in April 2014 and 6 occurred in May 2014.
Of the additional cases reported by SAU, 79% (15 people) are Saudi nationals. Sixteen of the reported cases resided in Jeddah, 2 in Kharj and 1 in Dhahran. The median age is 56 years (ranging from 27 to 89), 68% (13/19) were men, and 11% (2/19) of the reported cases were health care workers.
The retrospective identification of these 19 cases does not alter the pattern and dynamic of the epidemic and the global risk assessment remains unchanged.
In addition, SAU notified WHO of 1 false positive case reported in a cohort of cases that occurred between 11 April - 9 June 2014. SAU also reported that 1 case had been reported twice and was therefore a duplicate case.
Globally, 877 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV including at least 317 related deaths have been reported to WHO. The total case count removes the false positive case and the duplicate case reported above.