A media report from Egypt said today that an Egyptian woman has died of a Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection, which, if confirmed, will go down as Egypt's first human case.
The woman died shortly after returning from a religious (Umrah) pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, where the vast majority of MERS-CoV cases have been reported, according the Egyptian news outlet Ahram Online. It cited the Arabic news site Al-Ahram as the source of the information.
The story did not list the woman's age, and it gave no details on how the infection was confirmed, where in Saudi Arabia she traveled, how long she was ill, or whether her contacts are being monitored.
If the case is confirmed, Egypt will become the 12th country affected by MERS-CoV. Besides Saudi Arabia, other countries that have reported cases are Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom. The cases in Europe and Tunisia all involved people who had traveled to the Middle East or their contacts.
The Ahram Online story said the Egyptian woman, named Gamila Ibrahim, was from Aswan in Upper (southern) Egypt and died in a hospital intensive care unit.
Two WHO-confirmed cases
In other developments, the World Health Organization (WHO) today recognized two MERS cases in Saudi Arabia that were reported by Saudi authorities previously.
One case involved a 22-year-old man who became ill on Feb 3, was hospitalized 6 days later, and died Feb 12. The earlier Saudi announcement said he was a cancer patient. The WHO said he had reported no contact with animals or other MERS patients.
The other case is in a 67-year-old man from Riyadh, who got sick on Jan 23 and was hospitalized Jan 25, the WHO said. The agency said he has an underlying medical condition and that he reported no contact with animals or other confirmed case-patients.
The WHO's MERS-CoV tally has reached 184 confirmed cases, 80 of them fatal. The agency has not yet announced two other cases that were reported by Saudi Arabia on Feb 20, in a 58-year-old Al-Ahsa man and an 81-year-old Riyadh woman.
Although the Ahram Online story suggests a possibility that the Egyptian woman contracted her infection in Saudi Arabia, the report comes on the heels of a study indicating that MERS-CoV exists in camels in Egypt. Camels are suspected as a possible source of the virus in humans, but the link has not yet been clearly established.
Feb 28 Ahram Online story
Feb 28 WHO statement
Feb 27 CIDRAP News story "Study finds MERS-CoV in Egyptian camels"