|MERS virus (image from the CDC)|
The 38 year old man was admitted to the hospital with breathing difficulties and diagnosed with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS.
His wife, who is eight months pregnant, was also suspected of being infected with the disease and was hospitalized. It is thought to be the first case of a pregnant woman contracting the virus.
Infectious Disease chief, Dr. Asim Malik at Mafraq Hospital in Abu Dhabi, cautioned that, “This is the first ever involving a pregnant woman so we do not know anything about the possible outcome."
Health officials in the UAE have advised residents not to panic as the infections in the gulf state continue to climb. If confirmed by the World Health Organization, these latest infections could raise the total MERS infections reported in the UAE to ten.
Dr. Malik said that they are well prepared for any outbreak and urged calm. “We are well equipped...in preparation and anticipation of suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus."
A leading researcher in establishing a possible camel connection to the virus, Dr. Ulrich Wernery, Director of the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory in Dubai, also urged calm. “It is not a big concern. People should not panic. All of the people to have died from MERS so far have had underlying, pre-existing conditions and anything, such as flu, could affect those with a weaker immune system."
To date, WHO has laboratory confirmed 160 cases of MERS in twelve countries and the virus has been blamed for 68 deaths.
Researchers caution that these numbers may represent only a fraction of the actual infections. A recent study found that only about a third of actual cases are being reported due to testing policies which focus only on critically ill patients. The report characterized the spread of the dangerous virus as a 'slowly moving epidemic.'