WHO: 3 of 9 MERS patients had camel exposure

Three of nine recently diagnosed MERS-CoV patients in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had contact with camels or camel farms, the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed today in confirming the cases.

Two WHO statements filled in some details on seven cases in Saudi Arabia and two in the UAE. The cases had been mentioned previously in announcements from the two countries' health ministries and were reported to the WHO between Jul 3 and 10.

The Saudi cases involved six men and one woman, ranging from 49 to 74 years old. One patient, a 72-year-old man from Arar in Northern Borders province, died, while two are in critical condition and four are in stable condition, the WHO reported.

Camel connections

One Saudi patient, a 49-year-old man from Al-Hasa (also spelled Al-Ahsa or Hassa) in the Eastern province owns a farm and had direct contact with camels, goats, and birds, the WHO said in a statement on its Web site. Samples have been taken from 15 of the patient's contacts and from farm workers and camels for testing, the agency said.

Both of the UAE patients live in Abu Dhabi and have camel connections, according to a WHO statement that was e-mailed to journalists. One, a 67-year-old man who is hospitalized in critical condition, owns a camel farm in Saudi Arabia's Eastern region and had direct contact with camels there 3 months before he fell ill. He also visited a camel farm in Abu Dhabi 2 weeks before he got sick, but he had no direct contact with camels there.

The other UAE patient is a 50-year-old man who was identified in screening of people associated with a farm where a camel was found to have a MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) infection, the agency reported.

The man had no symptoms when he was screened for MERS on Jul 3, but 2 days later he experienced a mild cough, and he tested positive for the virus on Jul 6. His current condition was not mentioned. He had no contact with other confirmed MERS-CoV case-patients before his illness.

Aside from camels, no suspected sources of MERS-CoV exposure were mentioned for any of the patients in today's WHO statement. Camels are considered a likely source of human MERS-CoV infections, but precisely how the virus jumps from camels to humans has not yet been determined.

The cases described by the WHO today raised the agency's MERS count to 836 cases, with at least 288 deaths.

See also:

Jul 14 WHO statement

Related Jul 7 CIDRAP News story

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