MERS infects 7 in Saudi Arabia, including 3 in health settings

In updates posted over the past few days, Saudi Arabia reported seven more MERS-CoV infections and two deaths from the disease. Three of the patients are Riyadh residents infected while they were hospitalized, hinting at a possible healthcare-related outbreak.

Three of the other patients had been exposed to camels, another well-known risk factor for contracting MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus), before they became ill.

Secondary infections in 3 patients

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported details about the cases in six daily statement dated from Feb 26 through Mar 3.

The patients infected while hospitalized in Riyadh include two men, 23 and 59, both of whom are listed in stable condition. Their infections were noted in a Feb 26 update, which said neither of the men are healthcare workers.

Meanwhile, a Mar 1 MOH statement reflected another MERS-CoV infection in a Riyadh hospital patient, a 64-year-old man who is listed in critical condition and is likewise not a healthcare professional.

Though the virus doesn't seem to spread easily from person-to-person, hospital settings seem to be the exception.

In past years, Saudi Arabia has reported several large hospital-related outbreaks, but over the past 2 years, much smaller clusters have been reported. Experts have said health facilities have stepped up their efforts, such as testing high-risk contacts and isolating contacts who have asymptomatic infections.

Camel contact cited in 3 people

Meanwhile, spillover from camels is thought to be the main source of MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia, and in the MOH updates note three recent cases in people who were exposed to the animals before they got sick. One involves an 83-year-old man from Riyadh whose illness was reported on Feb 26; the MOH said the man had direct contact with camels and is hospitalized in stable condition.

The other two patients who had camel contact are from different parts of Saudi Arabia. One is a 43-year-old man from the city of Hail in the north central part of the country who is listed in critical condition. His illness was reported on Mar 1.

According to a Mar 3 statement, the other patient is a 74-year-old man from Najran, located in southern Saudi Arabia. The man is listed in stable condition.

Primary-exposure case, and 2 deaths

The seventh new case involves a 71-year-old man from the city of Buraydah, located in the central part of the country, according to a Feb 27 update. The man is hospitalized in critical condition.

Of the two new deaths reported, one involves an 83-year-old man from Riyadh, according to the Mar 3 MOH statement. It's not clear if he is the same patient whose exposure to camels was noted in the Feb 26 statement, but it's likely.

The other death occurred in a 71-year-old man from Buraydah. Again, it's not clear if he's the same patient from the city whose illness was noted in a Feb 27 statement, but it's likely.

Since 2012, Saudi Arabia has reported 1,812 MERS-CoV illnesses, 735 of them fatal. Ten people are still receiving treatment for their infections, according to the MOH.

See also:

Feb 26 Saudi MOH statement

Feb 27 Saudi MOH statement

Mar 1 Saudi MOH statement

Mar 3 Saudi MOH statement

Newsletter Sign-up

Get CIDRAP news and other free newsletters.

Sign up now»


Unrestricted financial support provided by

Bentson Foundation 3MAccelerate DiagnosticsGilead 
Grant support for ASP provided by


  Become an underwriter»