WHO Reports Three New MERS-CoV Cases, Four Deaths
July 8, 2013

WHO Reports Three New MERS-CoV Cases, Four Deaths

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health has reported three additional laboratory-confirmed cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome-coronavirus (MERS-CoV) to the World Health Organization this past week. The MoH has also confirmed four additional deaths from the virus on July 7.

The newest cases are a 69-year-old male and a 66-year-old male from Riyadh. Both were admitted to the hospital on June 28 and are listed in critical condition in ICU. A third case is of a 56-year-old female from Hafr Al-Batin city in the Northeastern Region. This patient is a healthcare worker who was in contact with a previously reported case of MERS-CoV who had recovered and was released.

In addition to the new cases, the MoH reported on July 5 the deaths of a 53-year-old citizen from the Eastern Region and a two-year-old male from Jeddah. Both of these deaths had been previously confirmed cases.

On July 7, the Ministry reported the deaths of a 63-year-old female from Riyadh and a 75-year-old male from Al Ahsa. Both of these deaths were also from previously confirmed cases.

As of September 2012, WHO has been informed of a total of 80 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection and 44 deaths. Since May 31, there have been a total of 30 newly-reported cases and 14 deaths. In mid-March, confirmed cases were only at 15 with a total of nine deaths.

A WHO report last month stated there was a potential for MERS-CoV to cause a global pandemic. But just last week, scientists reporting in The Lancet said there was currently no risk of coronavirus moving toward pandemic level. They did, however, maintain that close monitoring was necessary.

WHO recently announced it will be convening an Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations (IHR) for MERS-CoV. The Committee will meet on July 9 and 11.

One particular event that could potentially cause an explosion in MERS-CoV cases is the occurrence of Ramadan, which begins Monday night. While the fasting month of Ramadan is no worry, it typically coincides with umrah, a pilgrimage that could see hundreds of thousands of Muslims arrive in Mecca, according to a Reuters report.

Another event, haj, which takes place in October, could be even more worrisome. This main pilgrimage can see millions of Muslims arriving in Mecca, potentially sparking a pandemic if MERS-CoV cannot be brought under control. But because of expansion work carried out at the main mosque site, officials have cut the number of visas for this year's event.