(RxWiki News) MERS first appeared in Saudi Arabia, and most MERS infections have occurred in that nation. Now, new reports are suggesting Saudi infection numbers may be higher than thought.
Infection counts of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in Saudi Arabia have reportedly increased by over 100, and many of these cases resulted in deaths.
US health authorities are reminding travelers to the Middle East to be alert to any illnesses or symptoms that develop.
"When traveling, remember to practice safe hygiene like washing your hands often."
On June 3, the Associated Press (AP) reported that an official Saudi Arabian review of the MERS virus had led to an increased count of the number of patients who had been infected by the virus in that nation.
Previously, the most recent case counts had reported 575 cases and 190 deaths in Saudi Arabia, but the new reports identified 688 confirmed infections and 282 deaths, an increase of 113 infected patients and 92 deaths. Fifty-three patients are reportedly still undergoing treatment for the virus.
"The ministry is committed to providing all the data concerning the coronavirus and putting policies in place to protect public health," said Tariq Madany, MD, of the Saudi medical advisory council, as quoted by the Saudi Press Agency. "Though the review showed confirmed cases that needed to be added, we are still witnessing a decline in the number of newly registered cases in the past few weeks."
The virus was first discovered in Saudi Arabia in 2012, and the bulk of infections have occurred there. A number of additional countries in the Arabian Peninsula have also reported cases, including the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Travel-associated cases have been reported in several different nations around the world, including the US, France and Malaysia.
Symptoms of the virus are often respiratory in nature, with fever, coughing and trouble breathing frequently reported. For some patients, gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting are involved, and for some patients, complications like pneumonia and kidney failure have developed.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggested that travelers to the region take care to notice symptoms.
"If you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after traveling from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula, you should call ahead to a healthcare provider and mention your recent travel," recommended CDC. "While sick, stay home from work or school and delay future travel to reduce the possibility of spreading illness to others."
Researchers and health officials are still learning more about where the virus originated and how exactly it spreads, but spread between close human contacts has been seen.