Saudi Arabia, UAE report more MERS cases

Saudi Arabia's health ministry said today the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has sickened one more person and that another patient has died from the disease, a day after neighboring United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced sparse details about two more cases there.

Saudi Arabian cases

The latest patient to fall ill with the virus in Saudi Arabia is a 49-year-old man, a Saudi citizen from Hafoof, according to a health ministry (MOH) statement. It said he is not a health worker, has an underlying medical condition, and showed symptoms from his infection. He is receiving care in a regular hospital ward.

The city of Hafoof is in Saudi Arabia's Eastern province.

Meanwhile, the patient who died is a 70-year-old man from Taif, a city located in western Saudi Arabia, about 46 miles east of Mecca. His illness appears to have been first announced on Jul 7. A case-patient matching the man's description was hospitalized in an intensive care unit.

The latest developments boost the number of MERS-CoV infections in Saudi Arabia to 721 and its death toll to 295. Currently, 39 people are being treated for their illnesses.

Sketchy details from UAE

Yesterday, the UAE's health ministry announced two new MERS-CoV cases but shared few details other than that they were detected in Abu Dhabi and the case-patients are in stable condition and receiving care.

They are the first cases to be announced by the UAE since the middle of June. If confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO), they would lift the country's case count to 71, according to a list kept by FluTrackers, an infectious disease news message board. The country has reported at least 7 deaths.

WHO clarification on risk of disease spread

In other developments, the WHO today e-mailed a statement to journalists clarifying a news portrayal of the MERS-CoV risk to Asia. WHO said it met with a group of journalists in Manila earlier today to discuss ongoing infectious disease issues, during which it fielded a question about the risk of MERS-CoV spread in Asia.

One widely circulated story said MERS-CoV virus was unlikely to spread to the Asia region.

The WHO said in its e-mail statement that the WHO can't predict how MERS-CoV will spread, because it's still not known how the virus spreads to people. "Therefore, it is important that health authorities stay vigilant," it said, noting that at least 10 countries have reported infections in returning travelers.

WHO said global understanding of the disease continues to evolve and that all countries should be alert for acute respiratory infections and investigate any unusual patterns.

So far the WHO has received reports of 827 lab-confirmed cases, along with 287 deaths, according to the statement.

See also:

Jul 10 MOH statement

Jul 9 UAE health authority statement

FluTrackers MERS-CoV human case list

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