Jim Wappes at CIDRAP writes: South Korea, Saudi Arabia confirm more MERS cases. Excerpt and then a comment:
South Korea has had two more MERS-CoV cases among contacts with its first MERS case—now five cases total—and Saudi Arabia reported four new infections in as many days.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued statements recently on the first three Korean MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) cases, recent cases in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and 16 recent Saudi cases.
Korean health worker infected
The two new cases in South Korea involve the daughter of the third Korean MERS patient and a healthcare worker (HCW) involved in MERS care, according to separate reports today from the Korea Herald.
The daughter, however, likely did not contract the disease from her 76-year-old father, who shared a hospital room with South Korea's first MERS-CoV case-patient, a 68-year-old who had traveled to the Middle East, the Herald reported. Officials believe she contracted MERS from the 68-year-old man while visiting her father in the hospital.
She was quarantined as one of the 64 contacts of the first patient, the story said. She tested positive for MERS-CoV at a state-designated hospital after she developed a fever higher than 100°F. She is in stable condition, according to officials.
A separate Korea Herald story, translated and posted today by the infectious disease blog Avian Flu Diary, said that one of two HCWs with suspected MERS has tested positive for the disease, while the other HCW appears to have tested negative.
South Korea's first MERS case was reported May 20, while the second case—involving the man's wife—and the third were reported the next day.
Four new Saudi cases
Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed four MERS-CoV cases in 4 days, all in those 65 years and older. Three are in Hofuf in the eastern part of the country near Qatar. The MOH also reported four MERS-related deaths in that span.
The Hofuf cases were reported on May 23, May 24, and yesterday. They involve 77- and 68-year-old Saudi women in critical condition in intensive care units (ICUs) and a 71-year-old male expatriate in stable condition. None are HCWs, but all had contact with a confirmed MERS case-patient.
Hofuf has had a number of cases in the past few weeks, including four reported on May 9 that appear to represent a family cluster.
The Saudi case reported today by the MOH involves a 65-year-old Saudi man in Taif, which is near Mecca. He is listed in critical condition in an ICU. He is not an HCW, and his potential contact with MERS-CoV patients is under investigation.
The deaths were reported on the same days as the Hofuf cases. They involve a 71-year-old man in Riyadh, a 75-year-old man in Begig, and two women, 68 and 77, in Hofuf. None were HCWs, all had pre-existing disease, and all were Saudi citizens.
Saudi Arabia's MOH also posted a weekly update on May 24 containing no new information. These updates have been sporadic at best.
It's striking how MERS seems to thrive in the hospital environment. The Korean cases are very much like those in France two years ago, when a traveller from Dubai was hospitalized in Lille and died—but first infected a hapless roommate who remained ill for many months. And of course the Saudis' feeble infection control has enabled MERS to bring more than one hospital to its knees.