Saudi ArabiaHealth

WHO Says MERS Resurfaces in Saudi Arabia, Two Deaths Reported

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has resurfaced in Saudi Arabia, with four cases being reported in the Kingdom in the last six months, including two fatalities, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said this week.

In its bi-annual report, the global health body said that between August 13, 2023, and February 1, 2024, four laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV, including two deaths, were reported to WHO by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health, with the last case being reported on October 26, 2023.

The cases were reported from the Riyadh, Eastern, and Qassim regions.

Real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) technique was used for laboratory confirmation of the cases.

All four cases—two men and two women—had comorbidities and none were health care workers.

The patients ranged in age from 59 to 93 years and developed symptoms, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath, over five weeks between September 15 and October 26 last year. The two deaths occurred on October 19 and December 24.

Of the four cases, one was a camel owner, and another one had a history of indirect contact with dromedary camels as their family members were camel owners.

For the other two cases, there was no clear history of exposure to known risk factors. None of them reported having a history of consumption of raw camel milk in the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms. There were no known epidemiological links among the cases either.

Since the first report of MERS-CoV in KSA in 2012, a total of 2,200 human cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia, including 858 deaths.

Overall, human infections of MERS-CoV have been reported in 27 countries, in all six WHO regions.

Of the 2,609 MERS-CoV cases and 939 deaths reported globally, 84 percent and 91 percent, respectively, have been reported from Saudi Arabia, including these newly reported cases and deaths.

Since 2019, no MERS-CoV cases have been reported from countries outside the Middle East.

The global health body also said that it has been monitoring the epidemiological situation related to MERS-CoV and conducting risk assessments based on the latest information.

As a general precaution, WHO advises anyone visiting farms, markets, barns, or other places where dromedaries are present to practice available hygiene measures, including regular hand washing after touching animals, avoiding touching eyes, noses, or mouths with hands, and avoiding contact with sick animals.

Dromedary camels, or one-humped Arabian camels, are the natural host and zoonotic source of MERS infection.

MERS-CoV infections range from asymptomatic or mild respiratory symptoms to severe acute respiratory disease and death.

A typical presentation of a person with MERS disease is fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Pneumonia is a common finding, but not always present. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhoea, have also been reported.

The virus appears to cause more severe disease in older people, people with weakened immune systems, and those with comorbidities or chronic diseases such as renal disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, and diabetes.

The WHO says the number of cases of MERS has been rapidly dwindling since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic due to safety measures, including the wearing of masks, following hand hygiene, maintaining social distancing, improving indoor ventilation, stay-at-home orders, and other containment methods.


Alarabiya News

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