Ten Saudi MERS cases linked to hospital outbreak

A MERS-CoV outbreak linked to a dialysis unit at a hospital in Wadi Aldwaser has sickened 10 people, 2 of them with asymptomatic infections, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in an update covering 18 recent cases in Saudi Arabia.

In a separate statement today on an infection reported a couple weeks ago from Qatar, the WHO said investigators are still trying to determine how the man was exposed to the virus.

Outbreak includes 2 health workers

Wadi Aldwaser is in Riyadh province and is about 420 miles south of the city of Riyadh. Details about more cases from the facility appeared in yesterday's WHO MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) update. The 18 cases were reported by Saudi officials between Feb 23 and Mar 16.

Two of the patients in the hospital cluster are healthcare workers, men ages 36 and 39, both of whom are asymptomatic. Six of the cases were detected through contact tracing. All of the patients are adults, ranging in age from 31 to 72. The group includes six women and four men. Illness onsets range from Feb 26 to Mar 9.

MERS-CoV is known to spread quickly in hospital settings. The virus has triggered several hospital outbreaks in the Middle East, plus a large one in South Korea.

WHO advisors have made several missions to Saudi Arabia to examine hospital MERS outbreaks and share guidance on preventing them, and while the country has made progress and outbreaks have become smaller, they still occur.

Of the eight non-outbreak cases covered in the WHO's report, all involve adults—six men and two women—from different cities. Six had contact with camels or had consumed camel milk, known risk factors for contracting MERS-CoV. Two of the patients died from their infections, a 76-year-old woman and a 79-year-old man. Both had underlying medical conditions.

Also, the WHO said four previously reported MERS patients in Saudi Arabia have died.

Qatari probe points to local infection

In a separate statement today, the WHO shared more details about a 62-year-old Qatari man whose illness was first reported by the country's health ministry on Mar 21.

The man from Doha became ill on Mar 15 and sought care that day at a private clinic. He was hospitalized on Mar 20, where he is in stable condition and is being treated in an isolation unit.

Health officials identified 23 contacts and healthcare workers, and so far all have tested negative for the disease.

An investigation revealed that the patient had not traveled outside of Qatar in the past 7 months and had no contact with camels or people infected with MERS-CoV. Authorities are still working to determine the source of the man's illness, but so far the infection appears to be locally acquired.

The case is Qatar's first since June 2016, and the nation has now reported 19 MERS cases.

Since 2012, when the virus was first detected in humans, 1,936 cases, at least 690 of them fatal, have been reported, most of them in Saudi Arabia.

See also:

Apr 3 WHO statement on MERS cases in Saudi Arabia

Apr 4 WHO statement on MERS case in Qatar

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