MERS Slowing Down in Saudi Arabia


There have been no new cases of the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS Co-V) in Saudi Arabia during the past three weeks, or at least it wasn’t officially reported. Despite fears of increased risk of an outbreak during the pilgrimage, the country reported only 10 cases throughout the season.

The Saudi Ministry of Health announced no new cases have been identified in the kingdom’s hospitals in the past 25 days. This comes as good news, considering experts predicted the infection would spread rapidly during the Ramadan and the annual pilgrimage when thousands of people gather in Mecca and Madinah. The fears of a MERS outbreak proved to be inconsistent, as the almost all sick patients have already recovered, the Ministry also said. The latest cases, a 49-year-old citizen of Hofuf and a 44-year-old medical worker in Madinah, have been treated and made a full recovery this week. However, a female who had contact with a health care worker in Jeddah died o the last day of Ramadan.

During Ramadan and the Eid Al Fitr holiday, 396 patients have recovered and released from hospitals. According to the World Health Organization, the number of MERS cases has reached 837 globally, including at least 291 deaths. However, statistics from Saudi Arabia, the country that has reported most of the infections so far, show that 721 people in the country have contracted the virus and 298 of them have died.
International health experts say that the risk of an outbreak will be higher during the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people are expected to travel to Saudi Arabia. There are currently no travel restrictions, but the country is advising the elderly, as well as people with chronic diseases, to postpone their travel. Although the MERS virus isn’t as contagious as its “cousin” SARS which infected 8,000 people and killed almost a tenth of them 10 years ago, MERS is more dangerous and definitely deadlier – it has killed more than 30% of all infected patients.

MERS is considered to be originating in camels and recently, scientists made a discovery that suggests the virus may be now airborne. However, there is no immediate threat for the population in Saudi Arabia and in the region, especially if preventive measures are taken. These include mostly basic hygiene – washing your hands regularly, using tissues when sneezing and coughing, preparing and storing the food properly, and of course, avoiding contact with sick people and animals. The disease has an incubation period of around two weeks, which means it can take at least 10 days before any symptoms start showing – flu-like symptoms, fever, breathing difficulties, pneumonia and even kidney failure.


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