It’s been a while since I have written about the mysterious MERS #CoronaVirus but that doesn’t mean it’s gone away—quite the opposite in fact.
Yesterday the World Health Organization confirmed 15 new cases in Saudi Arabia and one in the United Arab Emirates. This new spike caused the closing of an emergency room at King Fahd General Hospital, the largest public hospital in Jeddah, where five health workers were infected. Although the ER was closed so they could disinfect it, the action caused consternation among health workers, who are now understandably worried.
Here’s the Good News and the Bad News about where the MERS Coronavirus stands now:
The Good News:
- Only 228 cases of the virus have been recorded worldwide. That’s not even a drop in the bucket.
- The disease is not easily transmissible from person to person.
- Camels are thought to be one host or “animal reservoir” of the virus. This limits places where the disease is likely to be transmitted from animal to human. Of course, bats are another possible host and they are more geographically widespread.
- Last year’s pilgrimages to the Kingdom did not cause a major outbreak.
- The MERS case-fatality rate in the Kingdom has dropped to 35.9% from 42%.
The Bad News:
- Yemen reported its first case.
- A 45-year-old man in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, died. He had not traveled or had contact with MERS CoV patients or with animals.
- Some of the infected, including a few of the hospital workers, are asymptomatic. Victims who don’t know they are sick can mingle with and transmit the disease to others.
- The case-fatality rate in the Kingdom has dropped to 35.9% from 42%. That’s still extraordinarily high. The mortality rate in the 1918 influenza pandemic was 2.5%. In the Asian SARS epidemic of 2003, 9% of infected people died.
- Five infected Filipino paramedics who worked for the same ambulance service in the UAE were quarantined. One has died.
- It’s still not clear how the virus moves from people to animals.
- There is no vaccine for either people or camels.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the new outbreak has raised questions about “how effective Arab Gulf governments have been in controlling the 1 1/2 -year outbreak.” The Saudi Health Minister denies his, of course, just as the Minister of Agriculture denies the relationship between camels and MERS. Epidemics can travel around the world but all politics is local.
Stay tuned for more information.