Saudi Arabia reports 3 MERS cases; Malaysia monitors 70 contacts

MERS-CoV has sickened three more people in Saudi Arabia, all of them men from different parts of the country, the Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH) said yesterday in a statement.

In other Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) developments, the World Health Organization (WHO) shared more details about a recently reported imported case in Malaysia and the country's public health response to it.

Saudi patients stable, but earlier case fatal

Of Saudi Arabia's three newest MERS-CoV patients, all have symptoms and are listed in stable condition. None of them are healthcare workers, and all are listed as having primary exposure to the virus, meaning they likely didn't contract the illness from other people.

Two patients are from cities in the northwest, a 72-year-old from Alqrayat and a 60-year-old from Tabuk. The third is a 61-year-old from Al Kharj, about 63 miles southeast of the capital city of Riyadh.

Also, the MOH reported a death in a previously announced case, involving a 28-year-old man from Afif who had an underlying health condition.

The developments lift the country's total since the virus was first detected in humans in 2012 to 1,774, including 720 deaths. Ten patients are still being treated for their infections.

Malaysia finds no new cases

Earlier this month, Malaysia reported a MERS-CoV infection in a 55-year-old man who had visited a camel farm during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, and the WHO this week revealed more details, which include the public health response in Malaysia.

The case marked Malaysia's second imported MERS-CoV case. Global health officials have asked countries to remain on high alert for imported cases, given that undetected illnesses can trigger large outbreaks, as evidenced by a 2015 event in South Korea that sickened 186 people, 36 of them fatally.

In a statement this week, the WHO said the man had traveled to Saudi Arabia as part of a pilgrimage group between Dec 13 and Dec 23, during which he visited a camel farm in Riyadh, where he drank unpasteurized camel milk and had direct contact with an animal.

His symptoms began on Dec 24 in Malaysia, where he was hospitalized and treated. Currently, he is asymptomatic but is still in the hospital.

Malaysia's health ministry is monitoring 70 close contacts of the man, including his pilgrimage companions, his family, health workers, and airline contacts. As of Jan 5, no other cases had been detected in Malaysia.

Nine contacts reported mild symptoms, but all tested negative for MERS-CoV and were released from the hospital. Of 41 close contacts under home monitoring, 22 have tested negative for the virus, and results are pending for the rest.

The WHO said that since 2012 it has received reports of 2,123 MERS-CoV cases from 23 countries, at least 740 of them fatal. Most are from Saudi Arabia.

See also:

Jan 11 Saudi MOH statement

Jan 2 CIDRAP News scan "Malaysian man diagnosed with MERS after travel to Saudi Arabia"

Jan 8 WHO statement

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