Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Saudi MERS Infections Top 400: 88 Cases This Week

The MERS virus
The first week of May has seen 88 new MERS infections announced by the Saudi Minister of Health and another death from the virus in Jordan.

The grim total in the Saudi Kingdom has reached 449 infections with 121 deaths. The daily reports by the Ministry of Health shows:

May 1:  10 new cases
May 2:    7 new cases
May 3:  18 new cases
May 4:  15 new cases
May 5:    3 new cases
May 6:    7 new cases
May 7:  28 new cases (reported in two announcements, 18 and 10 new cases)

Male and female victims were nearly equal with 46 men and 42 women confirmed this week.

About a third of cases (30%) are asymptomatic, or without symptoms, a third are in stable condition (35%) and a third are in intensive care units (32%). Fourteen people died from the virus this week, all but one were previously confirmed cases.

The director of King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah has been replaced as the city announced 30 new cases this week. According to the Health Ministry, the change would result in an "immediate improvement" in the medical care at the facility.

Riyadh saw 28 additional infections this week. Infections are rising in Mecca with 13 and Medinah with 7 this week. The cities of Najran and Al Taif each saw one case.

The announcements did not specify how many of the newly infected were health care workers, a sector which has been particularly hard hit by the virus.

Reuters reports that WHO estimates a quarter of new cases are among health care providers and they account for the majority of secondary infections.

"There was a clear need to improve health care workers' knowledge and attitudes about the disease and systematically apply WHO's recommended measures in health care facilities."

Dr. Mohammed Al Ghamdi, infectious disease consultant for King Fahd Hospital, tells WHO, “Our priority is to stop the transmission inside the hospital by strengthening infection prevention and control activities. WHO is helping us in getting answers on transmission routes not only in health facilities, but also in the community.”

The World Health Organization has sent a team of experts to Saudi Arabia to investigate the cause of the sudden surge of cases in the Kingdom.

WHO blames recent outbreaks of the virus at two Jeddah hospitals on "breaches" in recommended infection control measures.

Researchers attribute the increase in MERS cases on improved contact testing and reporting and to seasonal changes. They do not feel the virus has become more transmissible.

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