Likely in response to both the recent surge in MERS cases, and media reports accusing the MOH of `secrecy’, the Saudi Ministry of Health has today published the following (translated) statement, confirming 11 MERS cases since the first of the month, and reminding people to practice good hygiene and to avoid close contact with camels.
18 April 1436
In the framework of transparency adopted by the Ministry of Health and a continuation of the epidemiological surveillance carried out by the desire to keep everyone on the latest developments regarding the Corona virus that causes AIDS Middle East respiratory, the ministry would like to take it still recorded sporadic cases infected with the virus in some areas of the UK where the ministry recorded (11 ) case since the beginning of the month of February (2), two of them in Hofuf and (1) one case in Dammam and (2) two cases in output and five (5) cases in Riyadh and (1) one case in Najran and all of these cases gained outside hospitals where it is expected due to the change in the atmosphere during the coming period to increase the number of cases of respiratory infections, including HIV Corona, the ministry continues in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and the World Health Organization WHO and the Center for Disease Control and American control of CDC and other stakeholders related to the application of precautionary and preventive measures to deal with the virus through a command and control center of the Ministry of Health to maintain the health and safety of all members of society, God willing.
The ministry stressed the importance of prevention of infection and advised citizens and residents of the following practices which wash your hands with soap and water and avoid contact with sick and refrain from touching the eyes, nose and cough into a tissue or put the arm on the mouth and then wash your hands as well as the arm carefully and avoid dealing in close contact with infected camels respiratory symptoms and commitment preventive measures when dealing with camels. Everyone must especially for those who have chronic illnesses to avoid contact with camel milk is boiled or eating or scalded with the importance of maintaining good health habits in general.
The ministry called on all workers in health facilities comply with the instructions and the application of preventive measures and work the basics of infection control and compliance paths sort of respiratory cases in emergency departments and the use of personal protective tools according to the instructions notifying them of the command and control center at the Ministry of Health.
And called on everyone if you want to get more information and to identify the steps infection prevention visit the ministry's website Www.moh.gov.sa . It should be noted that the total number of cases of infection with Corona, which is currently under treatment in hospitals amounted to gross (15) case, including cases where the (11) recorded since the beginning of the current calendar month, we ask God for their healing and wellness.
With a new Health Minister - Dr. Muhammad Bin Ali Al-Hayazie – recently appointed, and a cloud of suspicion (see MOH Cancels Coronavirus Contracts Over Corruption Allegations) over previous Ministry management of MERS, Saudi Arabia faces some unique challenges as this year’s `MERS season’ (March through May) approaches.
Complicating matter, a recent EID Journal Dispatch (Lack of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Transmission from Infected Camels) has been frequently misinterpreted, and heralded in the Arabic media (and via social media) as `exonerating beauty’ in the transmission of MERS.
This EID dispatch, which only looked at transmission to humans from one camel herd over a 90 day period, specifically stated:
Our findings do not imply that dromedaries are not a source of infection for humans. Spillover infection of humans may be more common in other settings in which humans are exposed over sustained periods to animals among which virus prevalence is higher.
But that part of the story has either been ignored, or minimized, in the Arabic press.
The real takeaway is that camel to human transmission is rare, but it is a likely conduit of the virus into the human population. Once seeded, humans continue to spread the virus (albeit, only with limited efficiency) to others.
The R0, or basic reproduction number of the virus, remains low enough (< 1.0) that the disease hasn’t taken off in humans yet.
But as long as these rare camel-to-human zoonotic transmissions keep happening, new chains of human transmission will likely emerge. And that gives the virus additional opportunities to acquire host adaptations that may eventually increase its threat to mankind.