For the 3rd time in 5 weeks, the Saudi MOH is reporting a new MERS Case in the nation's capital, Riyadh. This is only the 12th case reported by the Saudi's in 2021, which is far below what we've seen reported since 2013.
Today's case is a 69-y.o. male with reported camel contact.
MERS-CoV was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, and was subsequently discovered to be endemic in camels. Camel-to-human transmission continues to reseed the virus into the human population, where it can then be transmitted from human-to-human.
Unlike COVID, MERS doesn't transmit well in the community, with most large outbreaks occurring in hospital settings. It has, however, a much higher fatality rate (est. 35%).
Admittedly, the Saudi's surveillance and reporting on MERS has always been a bit spotty (see 2016's EID Journal: Estimation of Severe MERS Cases in the Middle East, 2012–2016), with many experts believing that we were only learning of a fraction of the symptomatic cases.
We've also seen a reluctance by the Saudis to report cases in the past, sometimes going months without publicly acknowledging cases (see The Saudi MOH Breaks Their Silence On MERS-CoV), making the current reduction in MERS cases being reported a little less reassuring.
Prior to SARS-CoV-2 successfully jumping to humans, MERS-CoV was considered the coronavirus with the greatest pandemic potential. It still carries that same potential, and therefore deserves our attention.