WHO raises concerns about MERS-CoV patterns and pace

Saturday, September 21, 2013
By Paul Martin

Lisa Schnirring
CIDRAP News
Sep 20, 2013

The World Health Organization (WHO) today aired concerns about surging numbers of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) cases and clusters and said that the disease pattern seems to be trending younger and affecting women more often.

In a separate report, the WHO downgraded two cases from confirmed to probable, which left its official global tally at 130 cases.

The first report contained a WHO summary of outbreak events and literature review, the agency’s first since Aug 13. Since then, 37 new MERS-CoV cases have been reported, 34 from Saudi Arabia and 3 from Qatar. Nine of the infections were sporadic, but the rest were parts of clusters.

Regarding changes in demographics, the WHO said the median age of sporadic cases has dropped slightly, but a shift in gender is more pronounced and persistent. More than half (56%) of the newer case-patients have been female. This contrasts with earlier cases: Through the middle of July, 83% of the patients were male.

The geographic focus of the outbreak still leans strongly toward Saudi Arabia. Eight of the nine newest sporadic cases were probably exposed to the virus in that country. Though new cases continue to crop up around pilgrimage sites such as Medina, the WHO said none were reported in pilgrims who visited recently to perform Umrah for Ramadan.

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