MERS-CoV: 2 more cases in Italy, 1 in Saudi Arabia

Two people in Italy who had contact with the country's first MERS-CoV case-patient are sick with the virus, while Saudi Arabia has another new case and three deaths in previously reported patients, health authorities reported over the weekend.

In Italy, a 2-year-old girl and a 42-year-old woman who are close contacts of the country's first MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) patient contracted the virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced yesterday. The index patient is a 45-year-old man who got sick after a 40-day sojourn in Jordan, where the first known MERS-CoV cases occurred in April 2012. The WHO said all three patients were in stable condition.

A Deutsche-Press Agentur (DPA) story said the three patients were hospitalized in Florence, where the first patient works in a hotel. The 2-year-old is his niece and the 42-year-old is a co-worker, the story said.

"The conditions of the people involved are being monitored, and even the baby is getting better," DPA quoted Italian Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin as saying.

The three cases in Italy seem to repeat a pattern seen before in the United Kingdom, France, and Tunisia: Someone gets sick with MERS-CoV after returning from a trip to the Middle East, and soon one or more close contacts contract the virus, too.

Case clusters have also occurred in hospitals in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. But no sustained community transmission has been observed.

In a Jun 1 announcement, the WHO confirmed Italy's index case, which was reported by Italian health officials a day earlier. The WHO said the 45-year-old man returned to Italy on May 25 with a cough and fatigue and was hospitalized on May 28. The agency gave no other details about his case or possible sources of exposure to the virus.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported its own new case and three deaths in separate terse announcements.

Yesterday the MOH said the new case involved a woman who lives in the Eastern region and has chronic heart disease. It described her condition as "reassuring" but gave no other details about her or her illness.

On Jun 1 the MOH reported the deaths of three patients whose MERS-CoV cases had been reported previously. It said the patients suffered from various chronic diseases, including kidney failure in two cases. The statement gave no other details. An MOH page lists the country's MERS case count at 39, with 24 deaths.

The WHO, in its statement yesterday, put the global MERS-CoV tally at 53 cases, including the two new cases in Italy, and 30 deaths. The new case and deaths in Saudi Arabia apparently raise the unofficial total to 54 cases and 33 deaths.

In related developments, an infectious disease specialist in Florence (Italy)—where the country's three patients were hospitalized—said 10 people there have tested positive for MERS-CoV but are asymptomatic, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) story today. The report—based on a story from the Italian news service ANSA (Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata)—has not been confirmed by Italian authorities or the WHO.

Alessandro Bartoloni of the infectious diseases clinic at Careggi hospital in Florence was quoted as saying the patients were not isolated because they have not had symptoms, according to AFP. He said samples of their blood have been sent to the Superior Health Institute in Rome for confirmation.

Elsewhere, Bahrain's health ministry denied a report that a Pakistani man infected with MERS-CoV had fled Bahrain's main public hospital, according to a Gulf News story yesterday.

The story said the report in question said a Pakistani driver was taken to the Salmaniya Medical Complex after officials at the King Fahd causeway connecting Bahrain with Saudi Arabia suspected he had the virus. The report said the driver fled the hospital while test results were being awaited.

But the health ministry, in a statement yesterday, said "exhaustive" tests found no MERS-CoV infection and that the man left the hospital normally, according to Gulf News.

See also:

Jun 2 WHO statement about new cases in Italy

Jun 3 DPA story

Jun 1 WHO statement about first MERS CoV case in Italy

Jun 1 Saudi MOH announcement about three MERS deaths

Jun 2 Saudi MOH statement about new case

Saudi MOH MERS case-count page

Jun 3 AFP story

Jun 2 Gulf News story

Jun 2 WHO European Regional Office statement on MERS cases in Europe

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