Latest Saudi MERS update points to multiple exposures

A World Health Organization (WHO) update today on 15 recent MERS-CoV cases in Saudi Arabia points to a variety of possible exposures, including camels and sheep, with investigators so far finding no clues about how 6 of the patients were infected.

Also, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported two new MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) infections, both in men, one of whom may have had contact with a suspected or confirmed case.

Two new cases

According to today's MOH update, the latest confirmed patients are both Saudi citizens, a 65-year-old from Taif and a 30-year-old from Riyadh. Neither is a health worker, and both are hospitalized in stable condition.

Authorities are reviewing the Riyadh man's possible exposure to a suspected or confirmed case in the community.

The latest illnesses push the country's MERS-CoV total to 967 cases, which include 419 deaths.

The health ministry also said 3 more people have recovered from MERS, a 47-year-old Saudi man from Hofuf, a 56-year-old male foreigner who got sick in Riyadh, and a 40-year-old foreign healthcare worker in Riyadh. Overall, 529 people have recovered from the disease since the outbreak began in 2013.

In other MERS-CoV developments, the MOH yesterday announced in a statement another step to contain the spread of the virus. The agency said that clinicians who delay reporting or don't report cases will be subject to punishments, which could include a 6-month jail term, a fine of $26,650, or revocation of medical licenses.

WHO update: variety of exposures

Today's WHO update covers 15 cases reported by Saudi Arabia between Mar 11 and Mar 22.

Three of the patients died from their infections: a 62-year-old woman from Riyadh who was apparently exposed to the virus while hospitalized for another condition, a 59-year-old man from Riyadh who was a contact of an earlier MERS-CoV case-patient, and a 31-year-old foreigner who got sick in Riyadh for whom the exposure is under investigation.

Of the 12 patients who are hospitalized, 10 are in stable condition and 2 are listed as critical. Nine of the infections were diagnosed in Riyadh, an area that has recorded many recent cases.

Four of the patients, one of whom is a healthcare worker, were possibly exposed to the virus in hospital settings. The infected healthcare worker is a 45-year-old woman who got sick while working in Riyadh.

Three of the individuals had contact with animals, all of them from outside of Riyadh. Two had frequent contact with camels and had consumed raw camel milk, and one from Jeddah had frequent contact with sheep and regularly consumed raw sheep products.

Exposures weren't known for six patients.

Illness onsets range from Mar 1 to Mar 19. The patients range in age from 21 to 73 years old. The WHO said Saudi Arabia also notified it of five deaths in previously reported patients.

The batch of new Saudi cases boosts the global WHO-confirmed MERS-CoV total to 1,090 cases, with at least 419 of them fatal. The vast majority of them are from Saudi Arabia.

See also:

Mar 26 MOH statement

Mar 25 MOH statement

Mar 26 WHO update

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