The Scientific Committee on Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases (SCEZD) of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health convened a meeting this afternoon (August 26) to discuss the latest situation of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9).
As regards Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, the SCEZD was updated that, to date, more than 100 cases had been identified in the Middle East, Europe and North Africa since September 2012. Over 80 per cent of the cases have been reported since April 2013, with the identification of some mild and asymptomatic cases, possibly related to improvement in case finding in recent months.
So far, all cases have either occurred in the Middle East or have had direct links to a primary case infected in the Middle East.
People of all age groups were affected, although middle-aged or older males were over-represented. The majority of the cases had reported co-morbidities. Patients usually presented with acute febrile respiratory symptoms but immunocompromised individuals may have atypical presentations. Co-infection was also observed in some cases. The fatality rate remained high at around 50 per cent. The longest incubation period has been about 14 days.
At the meeting, Members considered that Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is an emerging infection whose animal source has yet to be identified.
Members are of the view that the currently observed pattern of disease occurrence could be consistent with ongoing transmission in an animal reservoir with sporadic spillover into humans resulting in non-sustained clusters, but unrecognised sustained transmission among humans with occasional severe cases cannot be excluded.
The SCEZD reviewed that person-to-person transmission had occurred in many clusters, either in household, work environment or health-care settings. With the exception of the health facility-associated cluster in the eastern region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the number of confirmed secondary cases per cluster has remained low. To date, evidence does not support sustained human-to-human transmission and the pandemic potential of the virus is considered low.