WHO: Mexico Cholera, Syria Poliovirus, MERS Coronavirus On The Rise

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

MERS Coronavirus has been gripping the Middle East and parts of Europe for more than a year; Wild poliovirus type 1 has been on the rise in Syria after being nonexistent for more than 14 years; Mexico has seen an insurgence of infections from Vibrio cholerae O1 Ogawa in recent months.

This week the World Health Organization (WHO) has received three separate reports from health officials in Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Syria pertaining to disease outbreaks that continue to grip each region.

MERS Coronavirus

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health informed the World Health Organization of three additional laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) on Tuesday, Nov 26.

The first patient is a 73-year-old woman from Riyadh who had underlying medical conditions. She became ill on Nov 12, was hospitalized on Nov 14 and died on Nov 18. The second patient is a 65-year-old man from Jawf region who has underlying medical conditions. He became ill on Nov 4 and was hospitalized on Nov 14. The third patient is a 37-year-old man from Riyadh who became ill on Nov 9, was hospitalized on Nov 13 and died on Nov 18.

The MOH confirms that none of the three patients had been exposed to animals or were in contact with previously lab-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV.

To date, the WHO has been informed of a total of 160 lab-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV, including 68 deaths.


WHO has been informed of additional confirmed cases of infection with wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) in the Syrian Arab Republic. A total of 17 cases have now been confirmed. These include 15 cases in children, mostly under the age of five, from Deir Al Zour province, as well as two additional cases confirmed from rural Damascus and Aleppo. Those two cases also confirm the widespread circulation of polio. The case with the most recent onset developed paralysis on Oct 8, 2013.

A comprehensive outbreak response plan has been implemented across the region, both by international health organizations and by the Syrian government.  Seven countries are now holding polio vaccination campaigns targeting 22 million children under the age of five years old.

WHO and UNICEF are committed to work with all organizations and agencies to help eradicate polio from these impoverished countries. The multi-organizational campaign is providing humanitarian assistance to the region to ensure that all children, especially those in Syria, are vaccinated against the debilitating poliovirus. The outbreak response will likely take six to eight months, depending on underlying epidemiological circumstances in each region.

Given the current situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, health officials have deemed the spread risk of poliovirus to be high. A surveillance alert has been issued for the region to actively search for additional potential cases and to implement supplementary immunization activities where needed.


Mexico’s Ministry of Health has informed WHO of an additional four cases of infection with Vibrio cholerae O1 Ogawa. Of these cases, three are from the state of Veracruz and one from the state of Hidalgo.

Since the outbreak was first detected in September, a total of 184 cases have been confirmed, including a single death. Hidalgo has seen the largest outbreak with 160 confirmed cases. Veracruz has had 11 cases, the state of Mexico has had nine, the Federal District has had two, and San Luis Potosi has  had two cases.

Mexican health authorities continue to strengthen surveillance and to ensure availability and quality of care in medical units. Health measures are also being implemented to ensure citizens have access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Also, awareness campaigns have been launched and health professionals and other healthcare workers are being trained in prevention and treatment of the disease.

This was the first local transmission of cholera recorded in Mexico since 2001. The genetic profile of the bacterium obtained from patients present high similarity (95 percent) with the strain that is also circulating in three Caribbean countries (Cuba, Dominican Republic and Haiti). However, it is a different strain from the one that was circulating in Mexico from 1991-2001.