The Saudi Ministry of Health has announced another case of the MERS (Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus infection.
“There is another case of MERS infection in Riyadh. The patient is a 73-year old man who was suffering from a number of chronic diseases. He has no recent history of travel outside Riyadh and is being treated in an intensive care unit,” the ministry said in a statement on its website.
This brings the number of the people who have contracted the virus to 120, of whom 51 have died.
The Ministry of Health announced last August that a team of researchers at the ministry, together with researchers from Columbia University and the US Ecolab, were able to isolate the virus from a sample taken from bats in the Kingdom.
One sample taken from a live carnivorous bat that lives on insects showed that it contained a genetic structure that it was 100 percent identical to the MERS virus detected in the first diagnosed case in the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia was visibly relieved at the end of this Haj season when the Ministry of Health, Abdullah Al-Rabeeah declared that there were no epidemics including the MERS virus.
At a press conference, he said that, “The daily reports do not show any evidence of infectious diseases or MERS that would threaten the lives of the pilgrims,” adding that the health conditions of the pilgrims was reassuring. “We were on high alert and field teams were ready around the clock to provide the best health services.”Earlier this month I mentioned a report that places Saudi Arabia at #163 in the freedom of its press. This latest report tends to confirm that placement.
It offers nothing new—just the bare facts of the original MOH statement, minus the pious hopes for recovery. (Google Translate will give you a good sense of what the statement contains.) No reporter appears to have done any real legwork on this story, just as none have followed up on earlier MOH case announcements.
The report is padded with irrelevant factoids about finding the virus in bats, and with feel-good spin (likely premature) about the success of this year's Hajj. And in this it's par for the course in Saudi media coverage.
While writing this post, I see the MOH has just issued yet another MERS report—a 54-year-old citizen in Riyadh, with no recent travel history outside Riyadh and Eastern province, and the usual chronic medical conditions. When this story reaches the English-language Saudi media, it will get the same treatment and no follow-up.
And meanwhile the MOH English-language corona page seems frozen in time, listing 119 cases rather than 121 and no report more recent than September 27—over three weeks ago.