New MERS Cases Reported from Saudi Arabia

WHO reported 12 more cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection, along with three more deaths, that were confirmed between Oct. 27 and Oct. 30.

A dozen new cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection, along with three more deaths, were confirmed between Oct. 27 and Oct. 30 in Saudi Arabia, the World Health Organization reported Nov. 7.

WHO reported the cases are from Riyadh (5), Taif (4), Hafr Albatin (1), Jouf (1), and Makkah (1), with 56 being the median age of the patients, who range from 30 to 90 years old. "Eight cases (67%) are men and 8 (67%) are Saudi nationals. Eleven cases (92%) suffer from 1 or more comorbidities. In the 14 days that preceded the onset of symptoms, none of the cases performed Umrah/Hajj nor travelled out of their cities of residence. Only 1 case (8%) has a history of contact with animals and of raw camel products consumption. Seven cases (67%) – 2 of which were health care professionals – came in contact with MERS-CoV patients. Two cases (17%) – including 1 health care worker – spent time at hospitals with ongoing MERS-CoV outbreaks, although they had no contact with infected patients," the agency reported.

The process of tracing the patients' household and health care contacts is under way. The National IHR Focal Point of Saudi Arabia notified WHO of the death of three MERS-CoV cases that were reported between Oct. 7 and Oct. 24. To date, WHO has been notified of 909 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV globally, including at least 331 related deaths.

The agency's advice is that all member states continue their surveillance for acute respiratory infections and carefully review any unusual patterns. Health care workers should apply standard precautions consistently, and 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; and airborne precautions should be applied when performing aerosol generating procedures.

People with diabetes, kidney failure, chronic lung disease, or who are immunocompromised are 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," according to WHO, which does not advise special screening at points of entry or any travel or trade restrictions.

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