WHO Reports Coronavirus Sickens Two Saudi Healthcare Workers
May 17, 2013

WHO Reports Coronavirus Sickens Two Saudi Healthcare Workers

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday announced it received confirmation from Saudi Arabia´s Ministry of Health that two healthcare workers in their country have become infected with the novel coronavirus (nCoV). The two new diagnoses occurred after exposure to patients with confirmed nCoV.

The Ministry said the first patient is a 45-year-old man who became ill on May 2; he is in critical condition. The second patient is a 43-year-old woman who became ill on May 8; she has a coexisiting health condition and is in stable condition.

The WHO said in a report that this is the first time healthcare workers have been positively diagnosed with nCoV after direct exposure to patients. The agency said that hospitals and other healthcare facilities need to take more appropriate measures to decrease the risk of transmission of the virus to other patients and to healthcare workers.

Just last weekend French health officials reported that two healthcare workers were under surveillance after coming into contact with a patient from Valenciennes who contracted the virus when visiting the Middle East in mid-April. The healthcare workers had shown symptoms of nCoV, but further tests showed they had in fact not been infected and were cleared, with health officials calling it a "false alarm." A third patient who shared a room with the Valenciennes man who was suspected of having nCoV was also cleared on Saturday (May 11).

Since the beginning of May, a total of 21 cases and nine deaths have been reported from the outbreak linked to a healthcare facility in Saudi Arabia. A total of 40 laboratory confirmed cases and 20 deaths have been reported since the first report came through in September 2012. The infections have so far occurred in six countries: France, Germany, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Kingdom.

The WHO is advising all healthcare providers to remain vigilant, especially among recent travelers returning from the Middle East, specifically areas that have been affected by severe acute respiratory infections (SARIs).

The European Union is advising all Member States to act promptly and alert the WHO of any potential cases of nCoV showing up in healthcare facilities, along with information pertaining to any exposures that may have occurred with patients.

Despite cases steadily growing, the WHO does not currently advise against travel to Middle Eastern countries, but said it is continuing to monitor the situation closely.

The Us Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also does not currently advise against travel to the Middle East for American tourists. But it does recommend that any travelers going to the Arabian Peninsula monitor their health closely and see a doctor if they develop fever and/or respiratory distress, such as cough or shortness of breath. They should also alert their local physicians upon their return home.

The US health agency states that some of the best measures to keep travelers and others from becoming infected include frequent use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth after touching surfaces, avoiding contact with sick people, and to be up-to-date on shots, vaccines and medical check-ups.

For more tips on how to protect you and your loved ones while traveling, visit the CDC´s Traveler´s Health website.