MERS count rises in Saudi Arabia, Germany, Qatar

The late-winter stream of MERS cases in Saudi Arabia continued with seven more reported over the past 3 days, while Germany reported a case imported from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar cited its second case of the year.

The latest cases in Saudi Arabia included one reported by the Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH) Mar 7, two reported Mar 8, and four more noted today. Six patients are from Riyadh and one is from Hofuf in the eastern province; all but two of them are men. Four are in critical condition and three are stable. Their ages range from 37 to 61.

Just one healthcare worker, a 37-year-old foreigner in Riyadh, is among the seven patients. None of them were exposed to animals or to other MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) patients in community settings before their illnesses, but possible exposure in healthcare settings is under investigation in four cases.

The MOH also reported four recoveries and five deaths among previously reported case-patients in the past 3 days. Four of the deaths were in Riyadh and one was in Unayzah. The agency's MERS count has reached 945 cases, with 408 deaths, 512 recoveries, and 25 patients still in treatment or under observation.

In addition, yesterday the MOH gave its second weekly summary of MERS cases, a practice it inaugurated a week earlier. It said the preceding week brought 19 cases involving 11 men and 8 women, with 16 in Riyadh, 2 in Al-Qassim, and 1 in Jeddah. Among the patients were 11 Saudis, 2 Filipinos, 2 Bangladeshis, a Yemini, an Indian, a Sudanese, and a Pakistani.

Of the 16 cases in Riyadh, 8 were acquired in the community, 3 were hospital-acquired, 3 involved healthcare workers, and 3 resulted from exposures to MERS patients in homes, the MOH said. Of the other three cases, two were community-acquired and one (in Al-Qassim) involved a health worker.

The agency also said rapid response teams working to prevent transmission in healthcare facilities made 18 field visits, while other teams visited 15 houses to monitor contacts of case-patients.

Germany reports imported case

In developments outside Saudi Arabia, German officials on Mar 7 announced a MERS-CoV infection imported from the UAE.

The German patient is a 65-year-old citizen who got sick after returning home from the UAE on Feb 8, according to a statement today from the World Health Organization (WHO). The patient's symptoms began 2 days after he arrived back in Germany, and he was hospitalized and placed in intensive care a week later.

Lab tests have confirmed the man's MERS-CoV infection in two samples, the most recent taken on Mar 5. The patient is in severe but stable condition, the WHO said.

German officials told the WHO that all recommended prevention and control measures have been implemented since Feb 23 at the hospital where the patient is being treated. Contact tracing is under way, and so far no other cases have been detected.

The man's illness marks Germany's third MERS-CoV case, according to a machine translation of a Mar 7 statement from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). It said the hospital where the man is being treated is in Lower Saxony.

Germany's two other MERS cases were flown to the country for treatment, one from Qatar and the other from the UAE.

Qatar reports its 13th case

In Qatar, health officials yesterday announced a MERS-CoV case in a 69-year-old man whose infection was detected after he was hospitalized for a sore throat and cough. He has underlying illnesses, and his first symptom was a fever, according to a statement from the country's Supreme Council of Health (SCH). He has pneumonia and is in an intensive care unit in critical condition.

Authorities have launched an investigation into the source of his infection, which has not been identified, the report said.

Tracing and screening of the man's contacts are under way, and Qatari officials are urging the public to take infection prevention measures, including good hygiene when visiting farms, markets, or other settings where animals are kept. They also advised people with underlying health conditions to avoid contact with camels, drinking raw camel milk, or eating meat that hasn't been properly cooked.

Qatar reported its last case on Feb 1, in a 55-year-old man, according to an earlier statement. The case reported today is the country's 13th overall.

ECDC says risk still low

In another development, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) updated its MERS-CoV risk assessment yesterday, saying the virus still poses a low risk to the European Union, despite an increase in cases in the Arabian Peninsula over the past month.

The agency said the new imported case in Germany shows the continued risk of importation of cases to Europe from the Middle East, but it said the risk of sustained transmission in Europe remains very low.

See also:

Mar 9 Saudi MOH statement

Mar 8 MOH statement

Mar 7 MOH statement

Mar 8 MOH weekly summary statement

Mar 9 WHO statement on MERS-CoV in Germany

Mar 7 RKI statement

Mar 8 SCH statement

Feb 2 CIDRAP News scan "Saudi Arabia, Qatar report MERS cases"

Mar 8 updated ECDC risk assessment

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