More MERS reported in Saudi Arabia; WHO details recent cases

Over the past 4 days Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) has reported three new MERS cases, one in a man who had contact with camels, and the World Health Organization (WHO) today filled in more details about 22 cases announced since the end of November.

No healthcare-related cases are noted in the latest reports, which mainly feature camel-related cases and sporadic infections from undetermined exposures in several of Saudi Arabia's regions.

Slow but steady stream of cases continues

One of Saudi Arabia's new Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) cases involves a 60-year-old Saudi man from Mahd Aldhahaba in the west-central part of the country, according to a Dec 16 MOH statement. An investigation revealed the man had direct contact with camels before he became ill. He is hospitalized in stable condition.

Today the MOH announced two more infections. Patients are a 58-year-old man from Riyadh and a 22-year-old woman from Taif, in the country's southwest. Both are Saudi citizens who are in stable condition and had primary exposure to the virus, meaning they probably didn't contract the disease from another patient. Neither individual is a healthcare worker.

Over the past 4 days the MOH also has reported four deaths in previously announced cases.

The new developments lift Saudi Arabia's MERS-CoV total to 1,511 cases, 629 of them fatal. Twelve people are still being treated for their illnesses.

Recent Saudi cases span several regions

In two separate reports today, the WHO fleshed out more epidemiologic details on 22 cases reported by Saudi Arabia from Nov 27 through Dec 13. Seven of the patients had contact with camels or drank raw camel milk, one was a household contact of an earlier case, and exposures are still unknown for 14.

Two deaths were noted in the 22 cases detailed today, and the WHO also noted five deaths in previously reported patients.

All of the case-patients are adults, ranging in age from 24 to 90, and all but three are men. All but seven of the people have underlying health conditions. The patients hail from cities in eight different regions, though about half of them are from two regions: Medina and Riyadh.

In cases involving camel or raw camel milk exposure, Saudi health officials notified the country's agriculture ministry for follow-up investigation of possible infections in camels, the WHO reported.

The patient who had household exposure is a 47-year-old woman from the city of Riyadh who is the mother of a recently reported patient, a 29-year-old woman. The mother's infection was identified through contact tracing.

Illness onsets ranged from Nov 14 to Dec 9. Twelve patients are in stable condition, eight are listed as critical, and two died.

The WHO said that since September 2012 it has been notified of 1,864 MERS-CoV cases, at least 659 of them fatal. It added that the new case reports don't change its overall risk assessment for MERS-CoV. Infections in the Middle East are likely to continue as people contract the virus from animals or animal products or from other sick people, mainly in healthcare settings.

See also:

Dec 16 Saudi MOH report

Dec 17 Saudi MOH report

Dec 18 Saudi MOH report

Dec 19 Saudi MOH report

Dec 19 WHO statement on 12 recent Saudi cases

Dec1 9 WHO report on 10 recent Saudi cases

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