August 29, 2013
Eight New Confirmed Cases Of MERS Reported In Middle East
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday of an additional eight laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the Middle East. Together with the latest cases, the WHO has been informed of a total of 102 lab-confirmed cases of infection, including 49 deaths.
Of the three women from Riyadh, a 50-year-old with underlying medical conditions became ill on August 1 and is hospitalized, but was recently taken off mechanical ventilation; a 59-year-old with underlying medical conditions became ill on July 23 is in critical condition in ICU; and another 50-year-old woman with underlying medical conditions is currently in ICU. No date of illness or hospitalization was reported.
Additionally, a 70-year-old man with underlying medical conditions, from Riyadh, is currently in ICU; a 31-year-old man with underlying medical conditions, from Asir region, is currently in ICU; and a 55-year-old man, also from Asir region, has been confirmed and is asymptomatic. No information on illness dates were reported for these patients as well.
The WHO continues to urge all Member States to closely monitor for signs of severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to review any and all unusual patterns carefully.
This novel coronavirus, which was officially renamed MERS-CoV back in May, has been slowly taking a foothold in the Middle East and surrounding countries. The first case was discovered back in September 2012 and nearly a year later, experts still do not have a clear picture of how this virus is being transmitted.
It was first reported in November 2012 that MERS-CoV may have come from a common virus found in bats, but no direct link was discovered at the time. Later, other experts linked the virus to other animals, including cows, goats and camels. At the same time, the virus was showing it could also move from human to human, although not in a sustainable way.
As the virus continued to spread, health experts and scientists raced to get a better understanding of this particular strain. MERS is similar to the SARS virus that killed hundreds of people in 2003 and is also similar to the common cold. However, in contrast to those illnesses, MERS was not giving up any of its secrets too easily.
A recent study, however, shed a little more light on a possible animal carrier of the virus. Researchers from The Netherlands found a coronavirus antibody in dromedary camels that was very similar to the MERS-CoV found in humans. While the finding could have been heralded as a savior to science, the researchers said more research was needed before a definitive match could be made.
Shortly after that study broke, an international team of researchers reported they found a 100-percent genetic match of the MERS coronavirus in a bat sample from Southern Africa. Despite the match, these researchers also concluded more research was needed to make a definitive correlation between bats and humans regarding MERS.
The WHO said it has “convened an Emergency Committee under International Health Regulations (IHR) to advise the Director General on the status of the current situation.”
This committee, which comprises international experts from all WHO regions, unanimously advised that the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) have not been met. As well, the WHO does not currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions to and from the Middle East.