Saudi Arabia: Thirty-Four Infected, One Dead In MERS Outbreak


By Mohammed Rasooldeen

Thirty-four new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome corona virus (MERS-CoV) were reported in the kingdom in the last nine days, including one patient who did not survive, records culled from the Ministry of Health’s daily bulletins show.

The lone death, reported on Monday, was a 49-year-old woman in Riyadh who had also been diagnosed with a pre-existing illness.

Of the 33 surviving cases, 25 were reported in Riyadh, two in Jeddah, two in Taif and one each in Najran, Madinah and AlKharj.

Seventeen of the cases were expatriate health workers and 16 were Saudis, two of whom were listed in “critical” condition.

A report from the Ministry of Health said among those affected in the capital were several health care workers who had acquired the disease from other patients during the last nine days.

A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) said that between June 16 and 18, 2016, the National IHR Focal Point for Saudi Arabia notified WHO of 22 additional cases of MERS-CoV.

A MERS-CoV outbreak is currently ongoing in a hospital in the capital, triggered by the case of a 49-year-old woman patient who was not immediately diagnosed to have MERS, according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The report said the woman was admitted to the hospital with unrelated symptoms. She was triaged in the Emergency Department for her illness, then admitted to the vascular surgery ward, but MERS-CoV infection was not considered. She was not isolated and was managed in a multi-bed room. During this time, more than 49 health care workers and patients were exposed.

After she was confirmed as a MERS-CoV case, a Rapid Response Team was dispatched and extensive contract tracing was initiated.

Twenty of those screened so far at the hospital and in the household have tested positive for MERS-CoV. These are 17 health care contacts and three household contacts.

The vascular surgery ward was closed and elective procedure were rescheduled. The necessary control measures are being put in place, said the report.

Since June 2012, there had been 1,399 MERS cases which included 594 deaths.

Risk assessment and prevention measures

According to the WHO, the notification of additional cases does not change the overall risk assessment.

“WHO expects that additional cases of MERS-CoV infection will be reported from the Middle East, and that cases will continue to be exported to other countries by individuals who might acquire the infection after exposure to animals or animal products (for example, following contact with dromedaries) or human source (for example, in a health care setting),” it said in the report.

“Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encourages all member states to continue their surveillance for acute respiratory infections and to carefully review any unusual patterns,” it added.

The WHO also issued the following guidelines:

  • Infection prevention and control measures are critical to prevent the possible spread of MERS-CoV in health care facilities.
  • It is not always possible to identify patients with MERS-CoV early because like other respiratory infections, the early symptoms of MERS-CoV are non-specific. Therefore, health care workers should always apply standard precautions consistently with all patients, regardless of their diagnosis.
  • Droplet precautions should be added to the standard precautions when providing care to patients with symptoms of acute respiratory infection; contact precautions and eye protection should be added when caring for probable or confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection; airborne precautions should be applied when performing aerosol generating procedures.
  • Until more is understood about MERS-CoV, people with diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease, and immunocompromised persons are considered to be at high risk of severe disease from MERS‐CoV infection. Therefore, these people should avoid close contact with animals, particularly camels, when visiting farms, markets, or barn areas where the virus is known to be potentially circulating. General hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing before and after touching animals and avoiding contact with sick animals, should be adhered to.
  • Food hygiene practices should be observed. People should avoid drinking raw camel milk or camel urine, or eating meat that has not been properly cooked.

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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