Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kuwait Reports First MERS Infection

November 13, 2013

Kuwait has reported the first MERS infection in that country. (Google Maps)
A man in Kuwait is in critical condition with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, the Minister of Health announced today.

The latest victim is 47 years old and suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure. He is being isolated in intensive care, according to the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).

Saying that Kuwait was 'fully capable to treat this disease', Dr Musab Al-Saleh, Disease Control Chief for the Health Ministry said and they would be following infection control guidelines by the World Health Organization and other international health agencies.

Kuwait shares a southern border with the Saudi Kingdom which has been especially hard hit by the virus.

The last two weeks have also seen cases of MERS reported in the countries of Spain, India and Oman for the first time. Travelers returning from the Hajj Pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia are being screened at airports around the world in an attempt to prevent the disease from breaking out of the Arabian Peninsula and becoming a pandemic.

In a report released by The Lancet, a group of European researchers called MERS "a slowly growing epidemic" and said that for every reported case there could be five to ten unreported cases.

They estimate the number of symptomatic cases to be close to one thousand, a fraction of the number officially confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the latest update on November 11, WHO has 'been informed' of only 155 cases of MERS worldwide, including 64 who have died. Most of the victims are located in Saudi Arabia or have recently traveled there.

The actual number of infected in the country may be difficult to know. An official from WHO recently admitted that Saudi 'surveillance strategy' involved testing for MERS only in patients who are critically ill with pneumonia-like symptoms and receiving intensive care treatment.

“I know that their surveillance strategy is focused on intensive care patients," said Dr. Anthony Mounts, a MERS expert for WHO.

MERS can cause symptoms similar to pneumonia with cough, fever and shortness of breath. It can also lead to kidney and renal failure and has shown to be especially lethal to the elderly or those who suffer from chronic diseases.

Scientists are working to locate the source of the virus and suspect an animal host. Clues have been found which suggest the disease evolved in bats and may be transmissible between humans and camels. However, the main form of transmission may now be human to human according to the Lancet study.

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