WHO Reports One More MERS Coronavirus Death In Saudi Arabia

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday said the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia has notified it about another death linked to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), east of the country.

According to a WHO note, the patient was an 83-year-old man who fell ill on May 27 and subsequently died on May 31. He was from Saudi Arabia's eastern Al Ahsaa region, where the outbreak began in a health care facility in April 2013.

The United Nations health agency said it has now been informed of a total of 55 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV across the globe, including 31 deaths. This includes 25 people who died from the virus in Saudi Arabia since September.

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause a range of illnesses from the 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.

Incidentally, the deadly novel coronavirus (NCoV) strain responsible for the current outbreak was recently renamed as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), reflecting the fact that most of the reported cases are in that region, mainly in Saudi Arabia.

WHO said Friday that it has received reports of laboratory-confirmed cases originating in the in the Middle East to date, namely Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The agency added that France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and the United Kingdom have also reported laboratory-confirmed cases. Those patients were either transferred there for care of the disease or returned from the Middle East and subsequently became ill.

In France, Italy, Tunisia and the United Kingdom, there has been limited local transmission among patients who had not been to the Middle East but had been in close contact with the laboratory-confirmed or probable cases, the health agency noted.

Based on the current situation and available information, WHO urged all Member States to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns.

It was stressed that recent travelers returning from the Middle East who develop SARI should be tested for MERS-CoV, and added that specimens from patients' lower respiratory tracts should be obtained for diagnosis where possible.

"Clinicians are reminded that MERS-CoV infection should be considered even with atypical signs and symptoms, such as diarrhea, in patients who are immunocompromised," the statement said.

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