On his VDU's blog, Dr. Ian Mackay writes: MERS-CoV: another emerging virus that just...stopped emerging? After noting the lack of both news and data on MERS, he goes on to write:
Has something been done within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to interrupt the transmission chain between whatever the MERS-CoV source(s) was(were) and humans?
We have not heard of any measures and of course no-one is generously offering to clarify this obvious and abrupt change in epidemiology. As has always been the case with the MERS story, this new turn of events leaves one unsure of what to think about this apparent sudden decline of case announcements.
I'm wondering if reporting has simply ceased. Two reasons for this personal view:
1. The most recent MERS-CoV case was a 55-year old male healthcare worker (HCW; Bangladeshi surgeon working at Prince Salman Hospital) who died 15-Jan in Riyadh. Now sure, he may have acquired MERS from an animal source (camel, bat, mouse, or cow, we don't know) but the odds, to my mind and with the MERS-CoV picture to date, it seem much more likely that he was caring for someone afflicted with MERS-CoV, which would mean 1 or more other cases exist but have not been reported.
2. The level of communication from the KSA about many aspects of MERS-CoV has not been of the quality that could foster any trust. It often appears that free communication of has been stifled or strangled rather than nurtured or nourished. The specifics to support that opinion can be found in browsing through my posts on MERS-CoV this past year or so.
So it's impossible to say more about what's happening with MERS-CoV infections beyond the fact that they have not spread, noticeably, beyond the bounds of the Arabian peninsula.
I tend to share Dr. Mackay's suspicions, with this exception: Before the announcement of the Bangladeshi doctor's death, it was rumoured on #Corona, the Arabic hashtag for MERS, for a week or two. Since the announcement, however, the hashtag hasn't seen mentions of any new cases, whether in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in the Gulf states.
So either no possible MERS cases have turned up, or the Saudis are getting a lot better at controlling Twitter traffic.
Speculations like these are what I call kremlinology—attempts to understand events when we simply lack evidence. When what little evidence we have is coming from a country with a decidedly unfree press, kremlinology becomes the only game in town.