WHO: MERS report in Bangladesh looks like false alarm

After further testing, a report of a MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) case in Bangladesh 4 days ago appears to have been a false alarm, a World Health Organization (WHO) official revealed today.

"It appears to be negative," WHO spokesman Glenn Thomas told CIDRAP News this afternoon, referring to confirmatory testing of a sample from the Bangladesh patient. He supplied no other details. The case would have been Bangladesh's first.

A top Bangladeshi health official reported the case on Jun 15, according to media stories. The patient is a 53-year-old Bangladeshi who lives in the United States and got sick after flying to his homeland on Jun 4, a trip that included a stop in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where dozens of MERS cases have occurred.

The health official had suggested that the man probably caught the virus on a plane or while at the Abu Dhabi airport. The news raised some concern because it suggested that the infection might have resulted from casual contact. So far, person-to-person spread of MERS-CoV has occurred mainly if not exclusively through close contact in families and healthcare settings.

Sample sent to reference lab

At a WHO press briefing on MERS-CoV 2 days ago, Keiji Fukuda, MD, said the test results for the Bangladesh patient were unclear and that a sample had been sent to a reference lab in another country for confirmatory testing. Fukuda is the WHO's assistant secretary-general for health security and environment.

When the Bangladesh official reported the case, he said the man was receiving intensive care in a Dhaka clinic.

One new Saudi case

In other news, Saudi Arabia reported one new MERS case today, raising the country's MERS count to 705 cases, with the death toll staying at 290.

The latest case-patient is a 38-year-old woman in Riyadh who is hospitalized, the Ministry of Health (MOH) reported. She is not a healthcare worker. As usual, the ministry gave no information about how the woman was exposed to the virus.

See also:

Jun 16 CIDRAP News story on reported Bangladesh case

Jun 19 Saudi MOH statement

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