The fortuitous slowdown in MERS reports during the run up to the Hajj continues today, with the Saudi MOH only reporting 1 case from the far southern city of Najran, near the Yemen border. Najran has been the site of a number of sporadic MERS cases, and camel contact has sometimes been suggested as a possible source.
Today’s case report – that of a 90 y.o. man listed in critical condition – doesn’t give us much to go on in that regard. Additionally, the MOH reports 5 recent recoveries.
New in today’s report is a fresh graphic (see bottom chart), representing the likely source of infection for Saudi MERS cases.
Health Care workers and Family Contacts each come in with about 12%, and nearly 1/3rd of cases are hapless hospital patients infected during their stay when a MERS patient is hospitalized in the same facility. Another 5% are unclassified.
The biggest portion of cases are listed as PRIMARY infections, and here we have very little information as to how these people came to be exposed and infected.
Camel or camel products may account for some of them, but probably only a small percentage. The role of mild or asymptomatic cases in facilitating the community spread of MERS remains an intriguing, plausible - but as yet unproven - theory.
More than two years after the World Health Organization first called on the Saudis to conduct a case-control study – one which ought to provide answers to many of these questions - we have yet to see one.
An omission that continues to frustrate the global scientific community, and potentially increases the risk to global public health from this emerging MERS Coronavirus.