Saudi MERS deaths reach 400 as cases surge

Saudi Arabia's surge of MERS-CoV cases and deaths continues into March, with 15 more cases reported over the past 3 days, as well as 6 additional deaths, pushing the country's fatality count to 400, according to statements from the Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH).

Thirteen of the new cases are from Riyadh, with 2 reported in Buraydah, the capital of Al Qassim region, which is 220 miles northwest of Riyadh. All of the patients are adults, ages 34 to 80, and all but four are men. All 15 of the latest MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) case-patients are symptomatic, with 9 hospitalized in critical condition and 6 listed as stable.

Seven of the patients are from outside of Saudi Arabia, and of four healthcare workers who are infected, three are from foreign countries. All but four of the patients have preexisting health conditions.

Exposure clues lacking for 11 patients

None of the patients had been exposed to animals before they got sick. Three had been exposed to suspected or confirmed MERS-CoV cases in healthcare settings, and one had contact with a confirmed or suspected case in the community.

Deaths in previously confirmed cases all occurred in adults, five of them men. Though most are older, they range in age from 40 to 91. All six of the patients had underlying medical conditions.

Four of the patients who died from their infections were from Riyadh, while the others were from Al Jawf region and from Buraydah. None were health workers, and one was from a foreign country.

The MOH also announced that a 45-year-old foreign man in Najran and a 62-year-old Saudi man in Hofuf have recovered from the disease.

The latest infections and deaths boost Saudi Arabia's total from the disease to 931 cases, 400 of them fatal, the MOH said today. The cases edge the global number of MERS-CoV infections to 1,068, according to a case list kept by FluTrackers, an infectious disease news message board.

More details in new weekly reports

In a separate development today, the MOH announced that it will start issuing a weekly report on new cases and the steps it is taking to battle the disease in an effort to keep the public better informed. With the first such report today, the agency said it would release the weekly reports in addition to the daily reports on new cases.

Between Feb 22 and 28, the MOH labs tested 1,493 samples for MERS-CoV, which resulted in the confirmation of 18 cases in adults ages 24 to 91 years old. Twelve of the infections occurred in Riyadh, with illnesses detected in six other cities.

The daily MERS-CoV case updates typically note only if patients are Saudi nationals or foreigners, but today's weekly report adds more details about the nationalities. In addition to 9 cases reported in Saudi residents last week, infections were detected in 3 Yemenis, 3 Filipinos, 2 Indians, 1 Egyptian, 1 Sudanese, and 1 Syrian.

The weekly report also fleshes out new details about health facilities where cases were detected. The MOH said 6 cases were monitored in the private sector, 6 by the MOH, 2 in the National Guard Hospital, 3 in university hospitals, and 1 in the Military Hospital.

Over the last week MOH rapid response teams responsible for battling infections in health facilities made 26 field visits, including initial and follow-up ones. Health ministry teams visited 10 houses last week and identified 63 people as patient contacts who will be regularly monitored during the MERS incubation period.

The weekly report also detailed response actions by the agriculture ministry, based on earlier and new cases that involved possible animal exposures. It said investigators went to six locations: Al-Ahsa twice, and once each to Riyadh, Al Qassim, Medina, and Tabuk.

See also:

Feb 28 MOH report

Mar 1 MOH report

Mar 2 MOH report

FluTrackers MERS-CoV case list

Mar 2 MOH weekly MERS-CoV report

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