Based on the limited and cryptic information we have from the Saudi MOH, it isn’t possible to tell exactly what index case sparked the current (largely) nosocomial MERS outbreak in Riyadh. Based on FluTracker’s Tracking List there were 5 cases reported from the capital city in June, and 14 cases in July, but it wasn’t until early August that the numbers really took off.
Since then, the Saudi MOH has announced 126 additional cases from Riyadh – the vast majority of whom are believed part of this hospital-acquired cluster.
I say `believed’ because specifics, such as who infected who, when, where and how remain largely unknown.
Despite multiple large nosocomial outbreaks (Jeddah, Taif, Hofuf & Riyadh) over the past couple of years, the Saudis have never shared the level of epidemiological detail such as we saw come out of South Korea this past summer.
Nor have they released the long-promised case-control study on MERS, which is hoped will shed some light on how the virus is sporadically being acquired in the community.
Today things become even more confusing, as the latest MOH update offers conflicting information. As they map at the top of this blog indicates, the MOH is reporting 7 new cases in Riyadh.
Unfortunately, the accompanying chart of cases doesn’t match. It shows 5 new cases in Riyadh, and 2 in Najran. (Your guess is as good as mine).
Three of the cases are listed as Health Care Workers, and 6 of the 7 are listed as contacts of known cases, with 1 under review.
Despite this confusing report, one thing remains apparent.
Three weeks before the start of the Hajj – and after more than a month of trying - the Saudis still haven’t gotten control of this large, high profile MERS outbreak in the nation’s capital.