Monday, October 14, 2013

Two More MERS Deaths in Riyadh

Hajj pilgrims are advised to wear masks in crowds. Photo from CNN
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported two more deaths from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus in the Saudi city of Riyadh. These victims were men aged 55 and 78 years. They became sick at the end of September and passed away at the beginning of October.

Both cases are considered 'sporadic' or having no known contact with other infected persons. Bats have recently been shown to be the genetic source of the virus but the method of transmission to humans is still unknown. WHO has confirmed 138 victims with 60 deaths to date, most in the Saudi Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia will be hosting millions of global visitors this week for Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam. This pilgrimage is required for all Muslims who are physically and financially able and many have been on waiting lists for over a decade for their turn to make this trip.

The Saudi Health Ministry has advised children, elderly and chronically ill to avoid Hajj this year due to the MERS outbreak in that country. Pilgrims who make the trip are advised to wear face masks in crowded places and follow common sense hygiene procedures, avoid contact with animals and not eat uncooked meat or unwashed fruits and vegetables.   

WHO recommends member states to continue surveillance and watch for unusual patterns of illness in those returning from the Arabian Peninsula and implement Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) procedures in any suspected cases. 

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