The United Nations World Health Organization said Thursday that it was informed of two laboratory-confirmed cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection in Saudi Arabia on the 18th and 19th of October, and three laboratory-confirmed cases on the 18th of September.
According to a WHO statement, two of the five laboratory-confirmed patients died. The ages of the five patients range from 35 to 83 years old; four men and one woman; two from Medinah and three Riyadh. Four patients had underlying medical conditions. Two patients reported having no contact with a laboratory-confirmed case or with animals prior to becoming ill.
Globally, from September 2012 to date, WHO has been informed of a total of 144 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 62 deaths.
Based on the current situation and available information, WHO urged all Member-States to continue their surveillance for Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI) and carefully review any unusual patterns.
WHO stressed that recent travelers returning from the Middle East who develop SARI should be tested for MERS-CoV, and specimens from patients' lower respiratory tracts should be obtained for diagnosis wherever possible.
The agency reminded healthcare facilities of the importance of systematic implementation of infection prevention and control, and urged them to decrease the risk of transmission of MERS-CoV virus to other patients, health care workers and visitors.
"WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions," the press release added.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause a range of ailments from common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which became an epidemic in 2003. The virus could be transmitted between people in close and prolonged contact. The sources of infection for the new coronavirus are still unclear.
The deadly Novel Coronavirus (NCoV) strain responsible for the current outbreak was recently renamed as MERS-CoV, reflecting the fact that most of the reported cases are from that region, mainly Saudi Arabia.
Nevertheless, France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and the United Kingdom have also reported laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infections. Those patients were either transferred there for care of the disease or returned from the Middle East and subsequently became ill.
by RTT Staff Writer
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