The Riyadh cluster of MERS cases, which has now generated more than 3 dozen cases since June 1st, continues this weekend with an announcement yesterday of a fatal case involving a 32 y.o. male who was apparently exposed while hospitalized for another condition, along with 5 more cases announced today.
Since these reports don't provide onset dates or hospital names (reportedly, more than one are involved), and reports are sometimes issued belatedly by the MOH, there is lot about this outbreak we simply don't know.
Including how (and when) it started, and how it could have gotten this far out of hand. Particularly since Saudi hospitals, over the past year, had appeared to have finally gotten a handle on MERS infection control.Today's report adds 3 more asymptomatic cases, and 2 displaying symptoms - all secondary infections among HCWs, and all listed in `stable' condition.
Roughly 3/4ths of the cases reported from this (combined) Riyadh cluster have been described as `asymptomatic', although it isn't entirely clear what level of symptomology they consider the cut off point.
While a lucky break for the individual asymptomatic patient, it does raise serious questions over how many `unrecognized' community MERS cases there might be and what role - if any - they might play in the spread of the virus.
After averaging less than 20 cases a month during the first four months of the year, over the past 30 days, Saudi Arabia has reported 51 MERS cases. With two more weeks left in the Holy month of Ramadan, and the Hajj only 10 weeks away, the timing of this uptick is far from fortuitous.