Middle East Respiratory Syndrome – Coronavirus Cases Confirmed in Italy

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In a statement from June 2, 2013, the World Health Organization announced three new cases of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome – Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in Italy. The first patient is a 45-year-old man who felt ill after returning from a trip to Jordan on May 25, a country related to the new infection.

The Ministry of Health in Italy through the European Union’s Early Warning Response System reported to the WHO about the first confirmed case of MERS in the country on Saturday. On Sunday, the Ministry of Health said there were another two patients, both closely related to the man. The 45-year-old Italian who traveled to Jordan was hospitalized on May 28 because his initial symptoms of cough and fatigue worsened and new symptoms occurred. Then, a two-year-old girl and a 42-year-old woman were diagnosed with MERS, and according to authorities, they are both in stable condition.

Although there are conflicting reports among the media, citing various numbers of cases and deaths from MERS since it was first detected last fall, the WHO says as of June 2, 2013 there are 53 confirmed global cases and 30 deaths. According to it, laboratory-confirmed cases have been reported so far in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, as well as in Tunisia, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. All cases of MERS-CoV found in Europe and Africa were in people who had either recently traveled to the Middle East, or had close contact to infected patients. Health authorities remind that the virus is related to SARS which killed nearly 800 people in a global epidemic a decade ago. Although WHO doesn’t recommend any travel restrictions, it focuses on the importance of international and local surveillance, as well as on the importance of infection prevention and control within health care facilities.

According to the Italian Health Minister, Beatrice Lorenzin, the situation in the country is under control. On May 27 however, Director General of the WHO, Margaret Chan addressed the audience at the 66 World Health Assembly in Geneva, saying that scientists still understand too little about the new and deadly strain of coronavirus. She also described the virus as “a threat to the entire world”, noting that any disease which is spreading faster than the knowledge about it, cannot be under control. Another frightening fact is that the deaths from MERS are currently 30, out of 53 cases. This means the fatality rate way above 50 percent! Whether the new virus will cause a global pandemic or it will silently disappear, we’re about to find out. But the authorities say the situation is monitored and countries are working together to combat the disease.

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