France cites likely MERS case; WHO notes Qatar case

France today reported a probable Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) case in a person who recently traveled to Saudi Arabia, while the World Health Organization (WHO) offered new details on a MERS case reported in Qatar yesterday.

The patient in France is a 43-year-old who recently returned from Saudi Arabia, the French health ministry said in a statement, but it did not specify whether the patient attended the Hajj pilgrimage in mid-October. The patient was hospitalized in northern France yesterday and is in stable condition, the statement said.

The Hajj attracted more than a million foreign visitors to Saudi Arabia and sparked worries about the risk of a MERS explosion. So far no cases have been reported in Hajj pilgrims.

The French health ministry launched an epidemiologic investigation and has informed all the patient's contact of the case and advised them to take precautions, the statement said.

If the case is confirmed, it will be the third MERS case in France. A 65-year-old man was found to have the virus in early May, after he got sick following an April vacation in the United Arab Emirates, and another man contracted the disease after sharing a hospital room with him.

Meanwhile, the WHO confirmed Qatar's seventh MERS case, which was reported by the media yesterday. The agency said the patient, a 23-year-old man, works in an animal barn owned by Qatar's last previous case-patient. The latter was a 61-year-old man who owned a farm with camels, sheep, and chickens, according to previous reports.

A news report had said the new case-patient was asymptomatic, but the WHO said, "The man developed mild symptoms of illness and is in good condition. Preliminary investigations revealed that he did not recently travel outside the country."

The WHO did not specify whether the 23-year-old is a Qatari citizen or not. A news report yesterday described him as an expatriate.

Recent studies showed that camels in Egypt, Oman, and the Canary Islands carried antibodies to MERS-CoV or a closely related virus, which fed the suspicion that camels may have spread the virus to humans. The virus is related to coronaviruses found in bats, but its animal reservoir has not been pinned down.

With the Qatar case, the WHO increased its global MERS-CoV count to 145 cases with 62 deaths. The WHO has not yet acknowledged three new cases that were reported in Saudi Arabia yesterday.

In other developments, the Saudi Ministry of Health today posted online English-language announcements of MERS-CoV cases over the past few weeks that were previously described only in Arabic statements. The statements generally match what was previously stated in machine-translated statements and press accounts, but they provide a bit more information in some cases.

A statement dated Oct 26 announces the three cases that were reported yesterday in a machine-translated version, involving three cases in the Eastern province. The English version provides the patients' genders: an 83-year-old woman, a 54-year-old man, and 49-year-old man.

Two separate statements dated Oct 18 cover the cases of a 73-year-old man and a 54-year-old man, both from Riyadh. The younger man's case occurred in the Eastern region. Both were being treated in intensive care units.

An announcement dated Oct 9 reported two fatal cases in Riyadh, involving a 78-year-old male citizen and a 55-year-old man, both of whom had chronic diseases.

The MOH site offers no explanation as to why the English-language announcements were not posted when the cases were first reported.

See also:

Oct 29 French health ministry statement (in French)

FluTrackers post with translation of French health ministry statement

Oct 29 WHO statement on Qatar case

Oct 18 CIDRAP News item about sixth Qatar case

Saudi MOH MERS-CoV page linking to English-language statements

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