The springtime spate of MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) cases in Saudi Arabia continued today with a report of 10 more, most of them in young people, and 7 previously reported patients died.
Five of the new cases are in Jeddah and four are in Riyadh, as those two cities continue to be focal points for the virus, according to today's update from the Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH). The other case is in Taif, where single cases were reported each of the last 2 days.
Half of the 10 patients have no symptoms, while four are in stable condition and one is in an intensive care unit, the MOH reported. None of the individuals are described as having preexisting illnesses.
All but one patient, a 62-year-old woman in Jeddah, are in their 20s and 30s, the statement said. Six patients had been exposed to other MERS patients, but, as has been the pattern in recent updates, the ministry didn't say whether any of them are healthcare workers. The World Health Organization (WHO) said earlier this week that about a quarter of the recent cases in Saudi Arabia involved healthcare workers.
The seven people who succumbed to the disease included three in Jeddah, three in Riyadh, and one in Taif, according to the MOH. They ranged in age from 25 to 94 years.
The MOH also reported that five patients who had previously tested positive for MERS-CoV have now tested negative.
With the new illnesses and deaths, Saudi Arabia's MERS tally climbed to 473 cases and 133 fatalities, for a case-fatality rate of 28.1%.
WHO committee to meet
In other news, the WHO's emergency committee on MERS-CoV will meet May 13 to consider recent developments, according to reports today from Agence-France Presse (AFP) and the Associated Press (AP).
The WHO committee was set up last July and met four times last year. At each of those meetings the group decided that the MERS-CoV situation did not yet qualify as a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern."
Telling reporters about next week's meeting, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said, "The increase in the number of cases in different countries raises a number of questions," according to an AFP story.
Also today, a media report delivered a bit more information about Lebanon's first MERS case, which was reported by the media yesterday. A story from the South African Press Association (SAPA) and the AP said the man had recently returned from a visit to several Persian Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, and that his illness was not severe.
The story echoed yesterday's reports that the man had been hospitalized but had already been released.
Testing in Indiana case
Meanwhile, a feature story published yesterday by the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) recounted the urgent testing conducted by the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDA) Laboratories in connection with the first US MERS case, which was identified in Indiana a week ago. The story was written by Lixia Liu, deputy director of the state labs.
The piece tells how the ISDH lab learned of the possible case on Wednesday, Apr 30, and then received nasopharyngeal and serum samples for testing the next morning. The test runs were finished by 3:00 that afternoon, with positive results. The lab then sent samples on to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation. The agency verified the positive findings early on Friday afternoon, May 1.
That news triggered a much larger round of testing, as the MERS patient's contacts had to be checked for the virus. The lab brought in two extra microbiologists, and over two 13-hour days the team tested 124 specimens from the patient's healthcare-worker and household contacts, according to the story. All the results were negative.
The MERS patient, a US citizen who had been working in healthcare in Riyadh, has been recovering in Community Hospital in Munster, Ind. Yesterday hospital officials said he was in good condition and was expected to be released soon; there was no new word from the hospital today.
May 9 Saudi MOH statement on 10 cases
Saudi MOH MERS page with case count
May 9 SAPA-AP story on Lebanon case
May 9 APHL feature story on MERS-CoV testing in Indiana