UAE confirms MERS infection; Saudi cases pass 1,000

The World Health Organization (WHO) today announced a MERS-CoV infection in a man from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the country's second case this year, and yesterday it fleshed out more details on five recent illnesses reported from Saudi Arabia between May 4 and May 9.

In addition, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) today announced 2 more illnesses, pushing its total for the disease to 1,001.

UAE patient transported camels

The WHO said UAE officials notified it of its Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) case on May 13. The patient is a 29-year-old foreign man from Abu Dhabi who frequently drives camels from Oman to the UAE. During his last trip he traveled to Ibri City, Oman, on May 6 and brought camels to the UAE on May 9.

In routine testing for imported camels, samples from the animals that the man transported were obtained, which tested positive for the virus on May 10. The man was admitted to the hospital for follow-up tests after the camels in his load were positive for MERS-CoV. He was asymptomatic, but tested positive for the virus on May 12.

He has no underlying medical conditions or other risk factors for the virus and is still asymptomatic at the hospital, where he is in a negative-pressure room. Tracing is under way for household and healthcare contacts in both the UAE and Oman.

The last MERS case detected in the UAE involved a 38-year-old foreigner who got sick on Dec 29, was hospitalized on Jan 29, and died in Abu Dhabi on Feb 6. The WHO said the new UAE case lifts the global total for the disease to 1,118 lab-confirmed cases, including at least 423 deaths.

The UAE case is reminiscent of a large serology study in Saudi Arabia that recently found that some people who have contact with camels can get have asymptomatic or mild MERS-CoV infections, which they could unknowingly spread to others. Such cases might explain infections in the Middle East in the absence of known risk factors.

WHO sheds light on 5 recent Saudi cases

The WHO yesterday issued an update on five recent cases reported from Saudi Arabia, one of them fatal. All involve adult men, including two from other countries. Illness onsets range from Apr 13 to May 3.

Exposures were known or suspected for three of the patients. A 61-year-old foreigner from Najran who died from his infection didn't have direct contact with camels or drink raw camel milk, but he lived in an area with camels and sheep. A 39-year-old from Hofuf who is hospitalized in critical condition is a contact of a previously reported lab-confirmed case-patient. And a 41-year-old foreigner from Huraymila—also listed as critical—had frequent contact with camels and drank raw camel milk.

The Saudi MOH recently said four MERS cases in Hofuf may be part of a family cluster.

Investigations are still under way for how two others contracted the virus: a 75-year-old from Abqaiq who is an ex-smoker, has underlying medical conditions, and is in stable condition, and a 48-year-old from Taif who is in critical condition.

Saudi Arabia cases top 1,000

Saudi Arabia's MOH reported two new MERS-CoV cases today, but only barebones information was available in a graphic posted on an outbreak map in Arabic. The agency's traditional English-language reporting site has been unavailable since May 11.

The two new cases are in Riyadh and Al Aflaj, located about 130 miles south of there. The MOH said so far 1,001 cases have been reported. It noted that 434 people have died from their infections, while 553 have recovered.

In the MOH's weekly MERS update, the agency said 12 cases were confirmed from May 10 to May 16 in Hofuf, Taif, Riyadh, Jeddah, and Al Qunfudah. It said that although cases are fewer than during the same period last year, the cases increased from the week before. The MOH noted that the 12 positive cases were found among 1,380 samples that labs tested last week.

See also:

May 18 WHO UAE update

Apr 9 CIDRAP News story "Saudi serology study shows possible role for silent MERS infections"

May 17 WHO Saudi Arabia update

May 18 Saudi MOH MERS-CoV graphic

May 18 Saudi MOH weekly MERS-CoV report

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