First Report Of Novel Coronavirus In Africa Brings Global Case Count To 43
May 22, 2013

First Report Of Novel Coronavirus In Africa Brings Global Case Count To 43

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Tunisia´s Ministry of Health has reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) that the novel coronavirus (nCoV) has shown up on its doorstep. A 66-year-old Tunisian man has died and at least two family members who had contracted the infection have since recovered. This marks the first time nCoV has shown up in Africa.

The Ministry told WHO that it had confirmed two cases in the laboratory and was still looking into a third probable case of infection. The two lab cases were of a 34-year-old man and a 35-year-old woman who were siblings. Both had mild respiratory infections and did not require hospitalization, according to the Ministry. Further investigation revealed that the father had become ill three days after a return trip from Qatar and Saudi Arabia on May 3. He had been admitted to the hospital after developing acute respiratory disease. His conditioned deteriorated and he died on May 10. However, initial lab results indicated a negative test for nCoV.

The WHO confirmed the cases in the children, one of which had traveled with her father for part of the trip. It did not have enough information to confirm or deny the case of the elderly father.

The new cases in Tunisia bring the worldwide nCoV case count to 43, of which 21 have died from complications -- a nearly 50 percent mortality rate. The bulk of the cases have been confined to the Middle East, but several outside travelers to the region brought cases home to France, Germany, the United Kingdom and now Tunisia, Africa.

"These Tunisia cases haven't changed our risk assessment, but they do show the virus is still spreading," said Gregory Hartl, the spokesman for WHO in Geneva. He added that health officials “still do not have a good idea of how people are getting infected and that is a major concern.”

The new virus is most closely related to a bat virus genetically, and is part of a family of viruses that cause the common cold and SARS. Experts suspect nCoV could be making the leap from animals like camels or goats to people, but there is yet considerable evidence to confirm such a theory, according to an Associated Press (AP) report.

The WHO also reported of a patient in Saudi Arabia who has been part of an ongoing investigation into an outbreak that occurred in a health facility at the beginning of April has died. Saudi Arabia has by far had the most cases, with a total of 22 patients and 10 deaths. The government has an ongoing investigation into the outbreak.

All cases of nCoV have been associated with the Middle East and travel to the Middle East by outside visitors. The WHO continues to encourage all Member States to keep a close watch for severe acute respiratory infections (SARIs) and to carefully review any unusual activity and patterns. Healthcare providers are advised to maintain vigilance, and recent visitors to Middle Eastern countries who develop respiratory conditions should be tested immediately. Even those who have atypical symptoms, such as diarrhea, should be tested.

“All Member States are reminded to promptly assess and notify WHO of any new case of infection with nCoV, along with information about potential exposures that may have resulted in infection and a description of the clinical course. Investigation into the source of exposure should promptly be initiated to identify the mode of exposure, so that further transmission of the virus can be prevented,” WHO said in a statement.

WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry and currently does not advise against travel or trade restrictions. It does, however, continue to monitor the situation closely and will take action if necessary.