Saudi Arabia reports third novel coronavirus case

Nov 5, 2012 (CIDRAP News) – Saudi Arabian officials yesterday reported the world's third known infection with a novel coronavirus, in a Saudi man who was hospitalized in intensive care but is recovering and has no links to the two previous cases.

The Saudi deputy minister for public health, Ziad A. Memish, MD, reported the case in a short post on ProMED, the reporting service of the International Society for Infectious Diseases, offering few details.

"He is recovering and out of intensive care," Memish wrote. He said no other cases have been found among the patient's family members or other contacts, but investigations were continuing. The patient "had no epidemiological links to the 2 documented novel coronavirus cases to date," Memish wrote.

The man had not been away from Riyadh, the Saudi capital, recently but reported he had visited a farm a week before he fell ill, according to the notice. It did not list the man's age or any other details on his condition.

The two earlier cases triggered an alert by the World Health Organization (WHO) when they were reported publicly in September. Before 2003, coronaviruses were known mainly for causing common colds, but when SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) emerged that year (the first cases occurred in late 2002 but were not reported until later), it was traced to a novel coronavirus.

The first infection with the new virus was in a 60-year-old Saudi man who had pneumonia and acute renal failure and died in a Jeddah hospital on Jun 24. The second case involved a Qatari man who got sick on Sep 3 and was flown to London for treatment on Sep 11. He was said to be critically ill with pneumonia and renal failure; British officials have provided no recent updates on his condition.

Genetic studies by Dutch and British experts determined that the coronaviruses in the first two cases were 99.5% similar. Memish said two labs, a Saudi facility and "an international reference centre," have identified the novel virus in the latest Saudi patient.

Memish reported that the patient was sick enough to require a ventilator, but he no longer needs it and has been moved out of the intensive care unit, according to a Canadian Press (CP) report published today.

In the ProMED post, Memish said Sauid Arabia alerted the WHO about the case, in accordance with International Health Regulations. The WHO said it had requested more information and hoped to issue a statement tomorrow, the CP reported.

The new coronavirus is related to coronaviruses found in bats, and experts have speculated about a possible animal source for the pathogen. Memish's report that the Saudi patient visited a farm before he got sick may support that notion, and today's CP story noted that the Qatari patient owns a farm where he reportedly keeps camels and sheep.

A Reuters report yesterday noted that Saudi Arabia had taken precautions to prevent the novel virus from spreading among millions of visitors participating in the Muslim hajj at the end of October.

See also:

Memish's Nov 4 ProMED post

Nov 5 CP story

Nov 4 Reuters story

Related Oct 23 CIDRAP News item

Related Sep 28 CIDRAP News story

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