Asir Mild MERS Cluster Raises Pandemic Concerns

Thursday, July 18, 2013
By Paul Martin
July 17, 2013

The first case is for a 26-old-year Saudi male in Asir, who was in contact with one of the confirmed cases. The second case is for a 42-year-old female resident working at the health sector in Asir. Both cases have mild symptoms that not required admitting to hospital.

The above description from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health (KSA-MoH) website cites the two most recent confirmed MERS-CoV cases, a contact of a confirmed case and an associated health care worker (HCW). Both cases are mild and recovered or are recovering without treatment of hospitalization. These cases extend a recent trend in KSA of confirmation of mild or asymptomatic contacts (which frequently included HCWs) of confirmed cases which have been reported throughout KSA (see map).

This latest cluster began with a confirmed case (66M) in a military hospital in Asir (see map). Media reports noted that there were three additional suspect cases in the area, and the above report confirms MERS-CoV in two. These two confirmed cases raise the official KSA numbers to 68 confirmed and 38 fatal cases, but these numbers are largely meaningless and are used to put out press reports for media stories which grossly misrepresent the true MERS-CoV distribution in the Middle East. MERES-CoV has attainedsustain community transmission throughout the region, which strong parallels with the SARS outbreak in 2003.

An announcement by a MERS emergency committee is expected today, to attempt to restore some credibility to WHO comments on the situation (and move beyond “seemingly sporadic”). Recently WHO has acknowledged the obvious (possible sustained community transmission), but has not formally confirmed community transmission.

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