You are here

Saudi Arabia reports five new MERS deaths

By AFP - May 18,2014 - Last updated at May 18,2014

RIYADH/WASHINGTON  — Saudi Arabia has reported five new deaths from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) respiratory virus, bringing the death toll in the world’s worst-hit country to 168.

In its latest tally, issued on Saturday, the health ministry said the total number of infections in the kingdom from the coronavirus since it first appeared in 2012 now stood at 529 people.

Among the latest fatalities were two men aged 67 and 55 and an 80-year-old woman in Jeddah, the port city where a spate of cases among staff at King Fahd Hospital last month led to the dismissal of its director and the health minister.

In addition, a 71-year-old man and another aged 77 died in Riyadh and Medina respectively, the ministry website reported.

Other nations including Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates and the United States have also recorded cases, mostly in people who had been to the kingdom.

The World Health Organisation carried out a five-day inspection visit to Saudi Arabia this month and pinpointed breaches in its recommended infection prevention measures as being partly responsible for the spike in hospital infections.

MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, is considered a deadlier but less transmissible cousin of the SARS virus that appeared in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, 9 per cent of whom died.

Like SARS, it appears to cause a lung infection, with patients suffering coughing, breathing difficulties and a temperature. But MERS differs in that it also causes rapid kidney failure.

Meanwhile, an Illinois man has contracted the MERS respiratory virus after coming into contact with the first case of the mysterious Middle East pathogen in the United States, become the third infected person.

It was during an ongoing investigation on the first case of MERS coronavirus in the United States that officials identified the new case, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said Saturday.

“CDC officials explained that these laboratory test results are preliminary and suggest that the Illinois resident probably got the virus from the Indiana patient and the person’s body developed anti-bodies to fight the virus,” the agency said in a statement.

It said the Illinois resident, who has not recently travelled outside the United States, met twice with the Indiana patient before he was identified as the first known case of MERS in the United States.

As part of the investigation, health officials have tested people who came into contact with the Indiana resident.

The identities of the MERS patients have not been released.

The Illinois resident was first tested for MERS on May 5, and those test results were negative. But a blood sample tested positive on Friday, showing he has anti-bodies to MERS.

“This latest development does not change CDC’s current recommendations to prevent the spread of MERS-CoV,” said David Swerdlow, who is leading the agency’s MERS response.

“It’s possible that as the investigation continues, others may also test positive for MERS-CoV infection but not get sick.”

The United States has previously announced two confirmed cases of MERS, which originated in Saudi Arabia and has since spread to more than a dozen countries.

The first patient, who fell ill in April, has been discharged from a hospital in Indiana.

up
74 users have voted.

Newsletter

Get top stories and blog posts emailed to you each day.