With the rise in MERS cases in Saudi Arabia over the past month, and now four MERS cases reported in Jordan – the concerns over whether this year’s Hajj will help spread the virus are understandably rising.
Today the ECDC released their 20th Rapid Risk Assessment on the virus, warning that sporadic importations of the virus into EU countries can be expected, along with the risks of further nosocomial transmission.
As this report indicates, we don’t have a complete picture of what is going on with MERS in Saudi Arabia, or any other countries in the Middle East. The number, and role of asymptomatic carriers is likewise unknown.
The full RRA can be downloaded as a PDF File, and is well worth doing for its detailed epidemiological analysis and graphics. Below you’ll find the press release/summary.
28 Aug 2015
A large nosocomial outbreak of MERS in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia has triggered an update of ECDC’s rapid risk assessment, in order to assess whether this event changes the risk of international spread or increases the risk to EU citizens living in or travelling to Saudi Arabia. The update also includes an assessment of the risk of infection and introduction into the EU associated with pilgrims visiting Saudi Arabia during the forthcoming Hajj.
Given the substantial number of people travelling between the Middle East, which continues to report the majority of MERS cases, and EU countries, imported, sporadic cases to Europe can be expected.
Over 110 new cases and 30 deaths have been reported globally so far for August 2015 alone, almost all of them from Saudi Arabia. When compared to previous years, the increase in reported MERS cases in August is unexpected and is mainly explained by a large, ongoing outbreak linked to one Riyadh hospital.
The extent to which other healthcare facilities in Riyadh are affected is unknown, as is the number of asymptomatic individuals who may be infected with MERS-CoV.
The role of hospitals as amplifiers of MERS-CoV infection is well known, so the strict and timely application of comprehensive infection prevention and control measures is imperative.
Sporadic, imported cases can be expected in EU/EEA Member States, and is associated with a risk of nosocomial spread. This highlights the need for awareness among healthcare workers, early detection through functioning testing algorithms, preparedness planning and stringent infection control precautions.