WHO: Reported MERS case in Egypt not confirmed

Tests so far have not confirmed MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) infection in an Egyptian woman whose death last week triggered a media report that the virus had reached Egypt, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman.

Test results so far are negative, but confirmatory testing is still under way, WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told CIDRAP News today. In a Twitter comment earlier today, Hartl said the woman did test positive for influenza B.

Ahram Online, an Egyptian news outlet, reported Feb 28 that the woman, from Aswan in southern Egypt, had died of MERS shortly after returning from a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

The next day (Mar 1) Ahram Online ran a story quoting an Egyptian health official as saying the woman's illness was only a suspected case and that testing was under way. The comment came from Amr Kandil, first undersecretary of the health ministry.

Egypt has not reported any MERS cases so far. The WHO's global MERS-CoV count stands at 184 cases with 80 deaths, most of which have been in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi MOH alert

In other developments, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health has warned people who have diabetes or certain other chronic conditions to avoid contact with camels in order to avoid exposure to MERS-CoV, the Saudi newspaper Arab News reported yesterday.

Recent studies have shown that some camels in the Middle East carry the virus, but so far scientists have not conclusively demonstrated that they pass it to humans.

Besides diabetics, the warning applies to patients who take immune-suppressing medications, cancer patients, and transplant patients, the Arab News story said.

It said the warning is in line with WHO advice that people who have chronic illnesses should avoid camels. In recent statements about MERS-CoV cases, the WHO has said that people at risk for severe MERS-CoV illness should avoid animals when visiting farms where the virus is known to be circulating.

See also:

Hartl Twitter feed

Mar 1 Ahram Online story

Mar 2 Arab News story

Feb 28 WHO statement, including advice on animal contact

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