Saturday, April 26, 2014

Egypt Reports First MERS Case as Saudi Toll Climbs Again

An Egyptian man is hospitalized in Cairo with MERS
Egyptian State TV is reporting the first case of MERS in Egypt, the fifth nation this month to report initial infections with the deadly virus. The announcement comes as Saudi Arabia reported 14 more cases today with four deaths.

A 27 year old Egyptian man is being treated for pneumonia and in stable condition in a Cairo hospital after he was diagnosed with MERS.

The man had recently returned from Saudi Arabia where he had been living in Riyadh, the location of numerous recent MERS infections.

This month has seen new MERS infections in Greece, Yemen, Malaysia and the Philippines. The spread of the virus into new locations comes as the Arabian Peninsula has seen a sharp increase in cases, especially in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Fourteen new cases were reported in Saudi Arabia today, a continuation of a week which has seen new infections reported nearly every day and brings the grim total to 323 cases in the Saudi Kingdom and 94 deaths. 83 of those cases have been reported in the last week. April alone has seen 102 infections with 22 deaths in the Kingdom.

In the latest announcement by the new Saudi Minister of Health, Riyadh reported four new cases of the virus, including one death. Mecca reports three new infections and one fatality. Hard-hit Jeddah reports seven additional cases and three deaths. Four of the cases are workers in the health care sector, including a nurse without symptoms from King Fahad Hospital in Jeddah.

Four of the cases are asymptomatic (without symptoms), four are hospitalized in stable condition and two victims are in intensive care units.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Has MERS Reached a Pandemic 'Tipping Point'? WHO Raises Alarms; Saudi Totals Spike Again

April has seen a sharp increase in MERS infections. (image from CDC)
The World Health Organization is raising alarms about the sudden jump in the number of cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the last few weeks, as health officials speculate whether the virus has reached a 'tipping point' where it could break out of the Middle East and become a global pandemic.

It took MERS two years, since it was first identified in April, 2012, to top 200 cases. Barely two weeks ago, WHO listed 211 infections and 88 deaths from the virus worldwide.

Saudi Arabia alone is currently reporting 313 cases and 93 deaths. The New York Times states there have been four deaths and 36 cases reported there in the last 24 hours, including a Turkish pilgrim who had visited Mecca.

As the number of cases grows, so do the countries where MERS has been found. Malaysia, the Philippines, Yemen and Greece have all reported their first infections and in all cases the victims had recently traveled to the Arabian Peninsula.

The United Arab Emirates has reported 45 cases and 7 deaths. Half (23) of those infections have occurred since April 1.

Jordan has reported an additional case involving a 25 year old man from Al Grayat City who had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia and had contact with camels and drank camel milk. This makes five cases and three deaths in that country.

WHO states that three quarters of the recent infections were secondary cases, that is, they caught the virus from another person. Most of these secondary infections have occurred in health care facilities, with the virus being passed to healthcare workers and other patients who were being treated for unrelated illnesses.

Most of the new cases have been been mild or asymptomatic (without symptoms) and secondary cases are less likely to spread the virus but health officials caution that much is still unknown about how MERS is transmitted or the route of infection.

WHO has offered to assist Saudi Arabia and the UAE in investigating the outbreaks and chain of transmission. They hope to determine if there is an 'evolving risk' that could be contributing to the uptick in infections.

According to Dr. Michael Osterholm of the Center for Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) via NPR, the disease may have "reached a tipping point and could be ready to spread out of the region." He cautioned that, "It took us over a year to get the first hundred cases of this viral infection, now in just the last two weeks, we've had a hundred cases. ... There's a major change occurring that cannot just be attributed to better case detection. Something's happening."

MERS is believed to be less contagious but more deadly than it's famous cousin SARS which sickened thousands worldwide and continues to circulate in some populations. The MERS virus has claimed the lives of 30 - 50% of victims, a staggeringly high mortality rate.

As concerns grow that the virus may have mutated to a form which is more easily transmissible among humans. Dr. Osterholm is worried we have may have already crossed that line. "When humans readily transmit [a virus] to humans, that's what will cause a worldwide outbreak," Osterholm says. "We are very concerned that ... with what we've seen over the last two weeks ... we may be at that point now."

Twelve New Cases Reported in Saudi Arabia Today
The alarming jump in infections in Saudi Arabia continues today with the announcement of 12 new MERS cases and two deaths from previously confirmed infections.

The statement includes details of the newest cases, six in hard-hit Jeddah, five in Riyadh and one from the holy city of Mecca.

Five of those infected are in area ICU units, six are in stable condition and one is asymptomatic (without symptoms).

Nine men and three women are included in today's announcement. Health care facilities continue to be the venue for many of the infections, with nearly half coming from that sector; One doctor, two nurses, a receptionist and a patient admitted for an unrelated illness were likely exposed to MERS at Saudi Hospitals.

The deaths were a 68 year old man from Mecca and a 72 year old woman from Riyadh.

The Saudi Ministry of Health has currently confirmed 313 MERS infections in the Kingdom and 92 deaths.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

UAE Reports Nine More MERS Cases

Nine new MERS infections reported in Abu Dhabi, UAE
The United Arab Emirates' Ministry of Health has reported nine new MERS cases. This continues a month outbreaks, clusters and three additional countries where MERS has been found.

All of the cases announced today are from the Abu Dhabi area and none have traveled or been exposed to animals recently.

According to Infection Control Today, six of the cases involve a cluster who were exposed to a laboratory confirmed case on April 10. They are currently being held in isolation and testing of family members and health care workers is continuing.

The members of this cluster range from 28 to 59 years old. Four have mild symptoms, the other two show no symptoms. The group is evenly divided between men and women.

The three remaining cases are all women between 52 and 73 years old. All have underlying medical conditions.

Two appear to have been exposed while visiting hospitals. One was an in-patient at an Abu Dhabi facility for an unrelated illness and is currently in ICU and the other had visited a hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia three times during a recent trip.

The last case reported is a 63 year old woman who is a close contact of a previously confirmed case.

The UAE has reported 45 MERS infections to date.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Saudis Report 36 New MERS Cases in Just 3 Days

36 new MERS cases reported in last 3 days;
61 new infections since April 1. Saudi MoH 
In a shocking jump in MERS cases in Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Health has announced an additional eleven infections today, raising the number of new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in Saudi Arabia by 61 since the beginning of April, including 36 infections in just the last three days.

On April 20, health officials reported thirteen cases, on April 21, twelve new cases were announced, plus five close contacts and the death of a previously announced MERS patient. April 23 brought the announcement of eleven additional infections.

The eleven cases announced today range in age from 13 to 81 and include five women and six men. Three work in the health care field. Four are from Riyadh, six from Jeddah and one from Mecca. One shows no symptoms, two are stable and seven are in intensive care units.

The Ministry of Health website currently reports 285 cases in the Kingdom, including 83 deaths.

The sudden jump in MERS cases has raised concern that the virus may have mutated to a more easily transmissible form.

Health officials have cautioned the public to be vigilant but not to panic. They stated that a popular rumor that all large public gatherings have been cancelled is untrue and the public should not believe rumors being spread on social media websites.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Greece Reports First MERS Case

Greece has reported the first case of MERS in the country
The World Health Organization in Europe has reported the first case of laboratory confirmed MERS in the country of Greece.

The 69 year old Greek citizen has been residing in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He visited a Jeddah hospital on April 8 and 10 for probable Typhoid Fever and visited his wife who was hospitalized between March 31 and April 5 with confirmed Typhoid Fever.

Jeddah has been plagued by several recent outbreaks of the MERS virus and health care settings have been the source of the majority of new cases.

The Emergency Department at King Fahd Hospital was briefly closed while staff disinfected following MERS clusters linked to the facility. Today's report did not specify which Jeddah hospital he visited.

The man returned to Greece on April 17 and was examined at a local medical facility where he was diagnosed with bilateral pneumonia. MERS was confirmed by the National Reference Laboratory for Influenza.

He is currently in stable condition. Close contacts of the man from the plane, hospital and community are being being sought. None have become ill so far.

Greece makes the fifth European country which has reported MERS infections. The others include UK, Germany, France and Italy. A total of ten cases have now occurred in Europe, five of which have died. All had recently traveled to the Middle East or had close contact with someone who had vistied there.

A sharp increase in MERS cases have been reported in the last month, including new infections in Malaysia, the first in Asia and an unconfirmed case in Yemen. A Philippine paramedic with links to a UAE cluster later tested negative for the virus.

The World Health Organization has confirmed 250 cases of MERS worldwide to date, with 93 deaths.

Saudi MERS Count Jumps Again; Filipino Man Tests Negative

April 21, 2014

MERS Infographic from Saudi MoH
In a month which has seen an alarming jump in MERS infections in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has confirmed thirteen new cases of the deadly virus in the Kingdom, three of which have died.

The Ministry of Health announced that more than a dozen additional cases had been discovered and the victims are from varied regions of the country.

Seven of the latest infections are from the Jeddah area. This region has seen several recent clusters of the virus, prompting the closing of the Emergency Room at King Fahd Hospital last week for disinfection. There are also reports that four doctors resigned after refusing to treat MERS patients.

The Jeddah cases range in age from 23 to 57 years old and include five men and two women. One victim has passed away, one is in the ICU unit, four are listed as 'stable' and one is without symptoms.

No details on the source of the illness is provided, but one of the Jeddah cases reportedly works in the health care field.

Four cases are listed as from Riyadh, including three men and one woman. Three of the victims suffer from chronic medical conditions, two of which are in ICU units, the other is stable.

One Riyadh case reportedly works in the health care sector and is in stable condition.

The last two cases both involve 68 year old men with underlying medical conditions who have passed away. One was from Najran and one was from Medina.

The Saudi Ministry of Health website reports 244 cases of MERS in the country, with 79 deaths. 36 of those infections have been reported in the last five days, raising concerns among health workers and the public.

This and other informative videos are available on MERS symptoms and prevention, produced by the Saudi Health Ministry (Arabic).

Filipino in UAE Cluster Tests Negative
A Filipino man who had been a member of a UAE cluster has tested negative for MERS.

Forty fellow passengers on Flight EY 0424 from the UAE last Tuesday have also tested negative for the virus. The flight carried 415 people, of which 119 have been contacted and 72 tested.

The man and his family had been isolated since he returned from the United Arab Emirates following an outbreak among six paramedics. The man had flown home before the results of a positive screening test were received. They have been released from quarantine following the latest negative result.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

MERS in Philippines Linked to UAE Cluster; WHO Confirms Malaysian Case

Health care facilities have been the source
of the majority of new MERS infections
The World Health Organization has been informed of four more MERS cases originating in the United Arab Emirates.

One returned to his home country of the Philippines where he is in isolation after testing positive for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome corona virus, commonly known as MERS.

WHO also confirmed a Malaysian man died of MERS after participating in the Umrah Pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

The UAE announcement involves four men who worked at a hospital in Abu Dhabi. They were discovered to be infected following routine contact testing of a man who died of the MERS virus on April 10.

The ages of the men range from 28 to 44 and none have underlying medical conditions. One became ill on April 14 and the rest are asymptomatic (without symptoms).

One man returned to his home in the Philippines before test results were received, despite being advised to remain.

According to Enrique Ona, Philippine Health Secretary, he is being held in isolation after testing positive for the virus and is not showing symptoms at this time.

His family has also been quarantined and contacts are being screened for MERS.

This cluster follows the April 15 announcement that six paramedics in the city of Al Ain, UAE had tested positive for MERS and one had died.

These latest cases could raise the total MERS infections in the UAE to 30 and the number of countries where infections have been reported to fourteen.

The Malaysian case is the first MERS infection in that country and in Asia. The man, who reportedly had diabetes, traveled to Jeddah with 17 others for the Umrah pilgrimage on March 15.

While in Saudi Arabia, he is reported to have visited a camel farm and drank camel milk. He returned home on March 28.

He became ill on April 4 and visited a private clinic on April 7. He was admitted to the hospital on April 9 and passed away on the 13th.

Dr. S Subramaniam, Health Minister is urging passengers who flew on Turkish Airlines flights TK93 and TK60 to contact the Health Ministry for MERS screening.

MERS was detected in three more countries this week with today's report from the Philippines and recent announcements from Malaysia and Yemen. All cases have had direct links to the Middle East and health care workers appear to be especially at risk.

WHO has now confirmed 243 MERS cases and 93 deaths worldwide.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

MERS in Asia: Malaysian Man Dies After Pilgrimage to KSA

Malaysian officials report first MERS case in Asia 
The MERS virus has claimed it's first victim in Asia, with the announcement that a 54 year old Malaysian man has died of the disease.

The man, who suffered from diabetes, had recently returned from pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. He was admitted to the hospital in Johor with breathing problems, fever and a cold after returning home and passed away on April 13.

According to Dr S Subramaniam, Malaysian Health Minister, "We have to take this condition very seriously because of the high incidence of death and it's a viral infection. We don't have a specific treatment for it."

The man traveled aboard a Turkish Airlines flight on March 29 and fellow passengers are being contacted by the Health Ministry for MERS testing.

This report follows yesterday's announcement of the first case and fatality in the country of Yemen and a week of outbreaks in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Malaysia makes the thirteenth country to report MERS cases. The others include Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Jordan, Oman, Kuwait, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Yemen and Tunisia.

The World Health Organization recognizes 212 laboratory confirmed cases and 88 deaths from the virus. Saudi Arabia has suffered most with 185 infections and 68 fatalities.

image from

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Yemen Reports First MERS Death

Yemen has reported their first death from the MERS virus
A resident of Yemen, in the city of Sana'a, has died of the MERS virus, according to Deputy Health Minister, Nasser Ba’awn.

No information regarding possible method of exposure was provided, including travel or exposure to animals.

Abdulhakeem Al-Kuhlani, director of the Epidemiological Surveillance and Disease Control Department at the Health Ministry, said they would take urgent action to raise awareness about the virus’ symptoms and ways to avoid infection.

The report states the World Health Organization, working with the National Center for Epidemiological Surveillance, has sent in a team to investigate and take samples from contacts.

Six UAE Paramedics Contract MERS; More Infections Linked to Jeddah Hospitals

April 15, 2014

King Fahad Hospital in Jeddah
Health workers continue to suffer the biggest risk of contracting the MERS virus, with a cluster of six paramedics in the UAE and two more health workers exposed to the virus in Jeddah in the latest Saudi cluster, according to the latest CIDRAP report.

The UAE, second only to Saudi Arabia in MERS infections with 27, announced a worker for an ambulance service in the city of Al Ain had died of MERS and five of his co-workers have been infected with the virus.

They are currently in isolation as the ambulance company searches for the source of the outbreak and traces previously transported patients for a possible MERS link.

Jordan has reported it's fifth MERS infection with the announcement of a 52 year old man who had chronic medical conditions and had traveled to Saudi Arabia between March 20 and 29.

He reportedly visited a hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia when he became ill on March 25. He visited the hospital again in Amman when he returned to Jordan and was finally admitted when he arrived at the hospital for the third time on April 2. He is currently in stable condition.

Saudi Arabia has reported a new cluster in Jeddah, involving two health care workers and a 45 year old who has passed away.

This latest outbreak follows a week of multiple MERS cases linked to King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah. The Saudi Health Ministry reports 11 confirmed cases while local media is reporting the number is 15, including three doctors and four nurses.

The spike in cases forced the hospital's Emergency Department to close for 24 hours last week for disinfection and officials consider hazard pay for health workers caring for MERS patients.

The grim total of MERS victims in Saudi Arabia has reached 185, including 68 deaths.

The World Health Organization reports 212 laboratory confirmed MERS cases worldwide, including 88 fatalities.