WHO: Saudi MERS patient in Austria was sick during travel

The Saudi Arabian woman who was found to have MERS-CoV during a visit to Austria was sick before she arrived in the country, and two of her close contacts are being tested for the virus as a result of respiratory symptoms, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today.

In addition, late yesterday the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MOH) reported a new case involving a 65-year-old man and the death of a 43-year-old whose case was announced earlier.

In-flight symptoms

The MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) case reported in Austria earlier this week is that country's first. The WHO said the patient is a 29-year-old woman who flew to Vienna on Sep 22. She came from Affif (also spelled Afif), a town about halfway between Mecca and Riyadh, and flew from Riyadh to Doha, Qatar, and then on to Vienna.

The woman had symptoms of an upper respiratory infection and fever before she arrived in Austria, the WHO said. She first sought treatment on Sep 24, and on Sep 28 she was transferred to Vienna's reference hospital for infectious diseases. The agency said she is in stable condition.

The patient reported no contact with camels or camel products, other MERS patients, or anyone else who was sick, leaving her exposure source unclear, according to the WHO.  She tested positive for the virus on Sep 29.

All of the woman's contacts in Austria are being monitored, and two who have upper respiratory symptoms have been hospitalized, with test results awaited, the WHO reported.

The agency said Austrian health authorities assume that the woman was infectious before and during her international flights. It indicated that passengers on the flights are being contacted and efforts will be made to reach the patient's contacts in Saudi Arabia.

New infection in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, the MOH yesterday reported a MERS case in a 65-year-old man from Jubail, on the Persian Gulf. The man, who had exposure to camels, has a preexisting disease and is being treated in a hospital intensive care unit, the ministry said. He is not a healthcare worker.

The MOH also reported a death in a previously reported case, that of a 43-year-old Saudi man in Taif. He had a preexisting illness and was not a healthcare worker.

With yesterday's announcement, Saudi Arabia's MERS count reached 755 cases, with 320 deaths.

WHO confirmation of previous cases

Also today, the WHO said Saudi Arabia has formally notified it of 15 MERS cases, including four deaths, that occurred between Aug 11 and Sep 28.

Four of the 15 patients reported contact with animals (camels or sheep) or consuming camel milk, and five were healthcare workers or worked in healthcare settings, the WHO said.

The statement did not mention 19 MERS cases that the Saudi MOH said it identified retrospectively in September through an audit of hospital records. The ministry announced the findings on Sep 18; the cases all had onsets before Jun 3.

With the latest cases, the WHO's global MERS count has reached 853 cases and 301 deaths, the agency said in the statement on the case in Austria. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) listed somewhat higher numbers in an update yesterday: 887 cases and 352 deaths.

See also:

Oct 2 WHO statement on case in Austria

Oct 1 Saudi MOH statement on new case

Oct 2 WHO statement on Saudi Arabian cases in August and September

Sep 18 Saudi MOH statement on cases identified retrospectively

Oct 1 ECDC update

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