MERS case reported in Oman; French case ruled out

Al-Jalali fort and Sultan's Palace in Old Muscat, Oman
Al-Jalali fort and Sultan's Palace in Old Muscat, Oman

The Al-Jalali fort and Sultan's Palace are pictured in Old Muscat, Oman. The MERS patient is hospitalized about 100 miles west of Muscat., iStockphoto

Oman became the fifth Middle Eastern country to be hit by the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) yesterday, as France ruled out what was previously described as a probable case.

The illness in Oman was detected in a 68-year-old Omani man with diabetes who was hospitalized in stable condition in Nazwa, 150 kilometers (93 miles) west of Muscat, the capital, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report.

Oman's health affairs under secretary, Mohamed bin Saif al Hosni, said the man got sick after having contact with someone from outside the country, according to reports from Reuters and the Oman Daily Observer.

The patient had a 7-day history of fever, cough, expectoration, and shortness of breath, the Observer said. There was no word on his occupation or whether he had contact with animals.

Meanwhile, testing by the Pasteur Institute in Paris ruled out the suspected case in France, according to a translated statement from the French health ministry. Reports yesterday said the illness was in a 43-year-old who recently returned from Saudi Arabia, but it was not clear if the person had attended the Hajj this month. Today's statement gave no other details.

Exclusion of the suspected case leaves France's MERS count at two cases, both of which were detected in May.

Oman, which lies on the southeastern end of the Arabian Peninsula, joins Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates as Middle Eastern countries that have had MERS-CoV cases. A few cases have also been reported in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Tunisia (as well as France), but all those cases had direct or indirect links to the Middle East.

In hunting for the source of MERS-CoV, researchers reported in recent months that camels in Oman, Egypt, and the Canary Islands carried antibodies to the virus or a closely related one. But so far no one has reported finding MERS-CoV itself in a camel. The virus is closely related to coronaviruses found in bats, but so far there has been no definitive evidence that bats carry it.

Earlier this week, Qatar reported a MERS-CoV case in a 23-year-old man who works in an animal barn owned by a 61-year-old man who previously had the illness. The older man was said to own camels, sheep, and chickens.

The MERS-CoV count of the World Health Organization, which has not yet acknowledged the case in Oman, stands at 145 cases with 62 deaths. Most of those have been in Saudi Arabia, whose posted tally is 124 cases and 52 deaths.

See also:

Oct 30 AFP story

Oct 30 Reuters story

Oct 30 Daily Observer story

Machine translation of Oct 30 French health ministry statement

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