New MERS Surge in Saudi Arabia


While the world seems to have forgotten about the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, which was first discovered in 2012, Saudi Arabia and the region are still not free from the infection. In fact, during a new MERS surge in the kingdom, four more people have died from the disease, while 18 new cases were registered.

On Monday, the Ministry of Health’s Command and Control Center in Saudi Arabia announced four deaths, caused by the MERS infection. Three of the victims were elder Saudi men from Riyadh with underlying conditions, while the fourth was a 45-year-old foreign worker in the city of Buraidah. This brings the total number of deaths, caused by the virus, to 400 in the kingdom, according to authorities. Data from the MERS Summary of Current Situation, published by the World Health Organization on March 5, shows that laboratory-confirmed cases are now 971, while deaths are at least 356. While the majority of cases are in men (63,5%), the median age of the patients is 48 years.

Although the infections have declined significantly since last year, now experts are seeing a new surge as the Ministry of Health also confirmed that 18 people tested positive for the virus. These infections were identified between February 22 and February 28, after a total of 1,493 samples had been tested. The majority was Saudi men and their age varied from 24 to 91 years, the official statement also says.

Meanwhile, healthcare workers in the kingdom will be granted bonuses for excellent performance and there will be “severe punishments” for medical errors, according to an official source at the ministry, cited in media reports. This statement however, hasn’t been confirmed. But it faces criticism as experts say punishments would never be effective in the healthcare system, naturally. Still, there are MERS infections occurring in certain hospitals in Saudi Arabia, which means in some places, staff doesn’t follow widely accepted prevention guidelines. Until the problem exists, the region cannot be free of the MERS virus and neighboring countries such as the UAE are in risk.


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