More Saudi MERS cases and deaths from Riyadh hot spot

Saudi Arabia map featuring Riyadh
Saudi Arabia map with Riyadh featured

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Signaling what appears to be ongoing healthcare and community clusters of MERS-CoV infections in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's ministry of health (MOH) today reported four more cases, including three from the nation's capital, one of them fatal.

The outbreaks in Riyadh come on the heels of similar clusters in Hofuf, a city located about 208 miles east of Riyadh. Those outbreaks involved at least two hospitals, and community clusters were reported as well.

Meanwhile, in fallout from South Korea's hospital-linked Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outbreak, the country's president sacked the health minister. Since the virus emerged in Saudi Arabia in 2012, problems tackling outbreaks there have also led to health ministry shake-ups.

Contact suspected in 3 cases

According to the MOH, all three of the Riyadh patients are adults who had contact with a suspected or confirmed case-patient in the community or hospital setting, one of them a health worker. They include a 78-year-old man who died from his illness and an 86-year-old man who is in critical condition.

The third patient is a 31-year-old foreign woman who is a healthcare worker. She is listed in critical condition.

The fourth patient announced today by the MOH is also a health worker, a 50-year-old Saudi man from the city of Narjan, located in southern Saudi Arabia. He is hospitalized in stable condition. However, the ministry said he didn't have any known contact with a confirmed or suspected case.

The MOH also reported four deaths from the disease in previously announced cases, all of them from Riyadh. All are men, with ages 32, 67, 75, and 78 years. The younger man is a foreigner, and he was the only one among the group who didn't have an underlying medical condition.

Today's cases boost Saudi Arabia's total from the disease to 1,063 cases, 471 of them fatal. Nine patients are still in treatment, and over the course of the outbreak 583 have recovered.

Korea health ministry replacement

South Korea's president Park Geun-hye replaced her health minister today, following criticism of how he handled the country's MERS-CoV hospital outbreak, the largest such event to occur outside of Saudi Arabia, Reuters reported today. The outbreak began in May, triggered by a sick traveler. No new infections have been reported since Jul 4, keeping the total at 186 cases, 36 of them fatal.

The outgoing minister, Moon Hyung-pyo, is an economist and welfare policy expert whose decision to withhold the names of involved hospitals early in the outbreak prompted intense criticism.

The newly appointed minister is Chung Chin-youb, an orthopedic surgeon and a public health expert, according to Reuters; the story said the president's spokesman gave no official reason for the health minister change.

See also:

Aug 4 Saudi MOH update

Aug 4 Reuters story

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