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Saudi Reports 3 Cases, Including 1 Death, From Deadly MERS Coronavirus

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The Saudi health ministry has informed the World Health Organization (WHO) about three human cases, including one death, of the deadly and highly contagious Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus between 10 and 17 April.

All three cases were males from Riyadh aged between 56 and 60 years with underlying health conditions and were not health care workers, WHO said in its bulletin.

The three cases are epidemiologically linked to exposures in a health-care facility in Riyadh, although investigations are ongoing to verify this and understand the route of transmission, WHO said. Since the beginning of the year, a total of four cases and two deaths have been reported from Saudi Arabia. The notification of these cases does not change WHO’s overall risk assessment, which remains moderate at both the global and regional levels.

MERS is a viral respiratory infection caused by the MERS coronavirus (CoV). Approximately 36 per cent of patients with MERS have died, though this may be an overestimate of the true mortality rate, as mild cases of MERS-CoV may be missed by existing surveillance systems, and the case fatality ratio is calculated based only on laboratory-confirmed cases, WHO said.

Humans are infected with MERS-CoV from direct or indirect contact with dromedary camels, which are the natural host and zoonotic source of the virus. MERS-CoV has demonstrated the ability to transmit between humans.

So far, non-sustained human-to-human transmission has occurred among close contacts and in health care settings. Outside of health care settings there has been limited human-to-human transmission to date, WHO said.

No vaccine or specific treatment is currently available, although several MERS-CoV-specific vaccines and therapeutics are in development. Treatment is supportive and based on the patient’s clinical condition and symptoms.

Since the first report of MERS-CoV case in Saudi Arabia in 2012 until April 2024, a total of 2,204 human cases and 860 deaths have been reported. Overall, a total of 2,613 MERS-CoV cases and 941 deaths have been reported from 27 countries, in all six WHO regions.

There was one large outbreak outside of the Middle East, in South Korea, in May 2015. It was characterised as a health care-associated infection, during which 186 laboratory-confirmed cases (185 in South Korea and 1 in China) and 38 deaths were reported; however, the index case (first patient) in that outbreak had a travel history to the Middle East, WHO said.

​The Saudi health ministry has informed the World Health Organization (WHO) about three human cases, including one death, of the deadly and highly contagious Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus between 10 and 17 April. 

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