After a three day lull in reporting, we appear to have a fifth case linked to the group of young female Expat workers who were housed together in Eastern Riyadh (see Thursday’s Saudi MOH Statement On Riyadh MERS Cluster Among University Workers).
Today’s case, that of a 29 year old. female, is listed as a `secondary household contact’.
Other cases in this cluster have simply been listed as `household contacts’, a distinction that would normally suggest this case did not have direct contact with the primary case.
According to media reports, as of yesterday 32 other occupants of the `house’ were under home quarantine – all had tested `negative’ – but would be monitored for 14 days.
This latest case’s age and gender suggests she is probably part of this extended household, but with the `secondary household contact’ qualifier, one can’t completely dismiss the possibility of her having had contact with someone in the affected household, and residing elsewhere.
It is impossible to tell from this report, so we’ll have to wait for further clarification – probably from the WHO.
All 36 house members work for a private company that provides cleaning services to Princess Nora University in Riyadh. The MOH has stressed that this outbreak is limited to Expat workers, and that No Nora University student has MERS. There is no word how the virus first entered this household.
Meanwhile, a new primary case – whose source of exposure is not provided – has turned up in Al-Dawadmi, a town of about 50 thousand located roughly 300km west of the capital city.
Although nearly half (45%) of all known MERS cases are acquired through hospital or healthcare exposure, nearly as many (42%) are either listed as primary (community acquired) or unclassified.
Some (likely small) number of these primary cases are believed the result of camel exposure, but the rest remain a mystery.
While it seems plausible that `mild’ or asymptomatic carriers of the virus could be spreading the virus in the community, we haven’t seen the kind of studies (case-control, prospective community testing, etc.) that would settle that one way or another.