Number of MERS Cases Escalates

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One Death and 7 New MERS Cases Announced

The Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia announced seven new laboratory-confirmed cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and a death. According to WHO statistics, this brings the death toll to 40 out of 77 globally reported cases.

After being in a critical condition, one of the patients previously diagnosed with MERS died, the Saudi Ministry of Health said yesterday. The person was a 32-year-old man from the Eastern region who also had additional underlying medical conditions. Four of the latest cases are among children, aged 7 to 15 from Riyadh and the Eastern Region who according to the reports were asymptomatic. Another two cases have been found in female healthcare workers again from the Eastern Region and Al-Ahsa where in fact the most cases have been reported so far. And the seventh case has been detected in a 50-year-old woman.

From September last year to date, the number of confirmed MERS cases has reached 77, including 40 deaths. This means the infection has killed more than half of the patients, making it deadlier than SARS which killed nearly 800 people in the 2003 global outbreak. So far, countries linked to the disease are Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, the UAE, France, Italy, Germany, Tunisia and the UK. Previously known as novel coronavirus (NCoV), the virus was called MERS-CoV because it is believed to originate from the Middle East. Furthermore, the cases reported in Europe and North Africa have also been connected to a travel to the region. According to a recent report published in the British Medical Journal, the infection will continue to spread because its cause and origin are still unknown. What scientists know is that MERS is very likely to spread from person to person – in families, as well as in hospital environment.

International experts met on Saturday at the World Health Organization’s office in Cairo to discuss strategies for coping with the new threat. In a statement they stressed on the importance of incorporating standardized methods for treating the disease. Countries should enhance surveillance for this particular type of diseases and report both confirmed and probable cases of MERS within 24 hours. Another crucial strategy is quickly investigating clusters of pneumonia and detailed description of contact histories.

All these will be of great importance taking into account the fact that thousands of Muslim pilgrims are expected to visit Mecca in the kingdom next month during Ramadan. Although WHO doesn’t recommend any travel restrictions, people should be careful and seek medical help if they experience some of the symptoms. The symptoms include SARI (syndrome of acute respiratory infection), coughing, pneumonia, fever, shortness of breath and atypical signs such as diarrhea.

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