MERS WHO and KSA Transparency Concerns Increase
September 25, 2013
19 September 2013 – WHO has been informed of an additional 18 new laboratory-confirmed cases including three deaths with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection in Saudi Arabia.
The patients are reported from Hafar Al-Batin, Medina and Riyadh. Their ages ranging from three to 75 years old. These cases were announced by the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia on 1, 5, 8, 10 and 11 September 2013.
The above table and legend (in red) and the WHO September 19 MERS-CoV update (in blue), demonstrate serious concerns about Kingdon of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health (KSA-MoH) and WHO transparency on cases.
The KSA-MoH updates rarely give dates associated with patients, and age/gender information is uneven. In the past, WHO updates provided key pieces of information such as dates for disease onset, hospital admission, and discharge / death, in addition to age and gender. As seen in the September 19 update above, this information has been withheld for the 18 KSA cases cited.
However, as seen in the above table, the withholding of key information has been extended to peer reviewed papers, including the recent Lancet paper on sequences or the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) paper on the Al Hasa outbreak. The above table does not list the age and gender of the patients, which is critical for linking the cases to WHO updates. However, the initial cases in the table have been described in publications so age and gender is known for the confirmed cases in Al Hasa as well as the first confirmed case in KSA (60M in Bisha – BS1), the first confirmed case in Riyadh (45M gym teacher – RY1), and a case from the first confirmed cluster in Riyadh (39M son of index case – RY2).