Monday, August 26, 2013

Saudi MERS Deaths, Infections Continue to Rise

August 26, 2013

MERS-CoV is from the family of viruses which cause the common cold
and is a genetic cousin to SARS
Health officials in Saudi Arabia have reported another MERS fatality and four new confirmed infections.  This is the second death in less than a week, bringing the total to 41 of 47 MERS deaths in hard hit Saudi Arabia. The latest fatality was a 51 year old man from Riyadh with cancer and other chronic health conditions.

Two of the new cases are from the southwestern region of the country. One is 31 year old man with previous illnesses and the other is a 55 year old man who was in close contact with an infected person. The second pair of infections are both from Riyadh, a 50 year old woman and a 70 year old man, both with chronic health conditions. Results are pending for sixteen more possible cases.

Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) called MERS her greatest concern and "a threat to the entire world." The spread of this genetic cousin to SARS has been slow but steady and, with a fatality rate of over 50%, the possibility exists for a dangerous global pandemic.

As deaths and infections continue to climb, health officials are worried about the millions of pilgrims from more than a hundred countries who will be traveling to Saudi Arabia for Haj in September and then returning home, possibly carrying the virus around the globe.

The Saudi government has issued regulations designed to contain the spread among crowds of religious pilgrims. Health officials are advising those who are over 65 or under 12 years old, chronically ill or pregnant to postpone the pilgrimage this year. They recommend common hygiene practices and vaccinations for influenza and pneumonia before entering the country.

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