Continuing the MERS Count

MERS virus infections continue as new cases identified in Middle East and North Africa

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) might be drifting out of the minds of people not connected to the Middle East, but the virus is still causing illness and posing questions.

Experts around the globe remain actively involved in exploring where the virus came from and how to best treat it.

The investigation continues as reports of newly discovered cases continue to roll in. Six newly identified MERS infections have been reported within the past week.

"Cough into a tissue, not your hands."

According to the latest counts from the World Health Organization (WHO), 114 confirmed MERS cases have been identified around the globe since September 2012. Of these cases, 54 have ended in death.

Two of the newly identified infections occurred in healthcare workers in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh. Two additional cases were discovered in the Hafar al-Batin province in the northeast of Saudi Arabia.

One additional newly discovered case was reported in the nation of Qatar, and the sixth came as a confirmation of an earlier-identified "probable" case in the North African nation of Tunisia.

Four of the newly identified patients have died, and two were in critical condition at the latest report.

Common symptoms of MERS have included fever, cough and trouble breathing. Diarrhea has been seen in some cases. Many MERS patients have developed pneumonia and in some instances kidney failure has been reported.

It is still not apparent exactly how the virus spreads, though there has been some evidence of person-to-person transmission in situations involving close personal contact. According to WHO, all MERS patients have had either direct or indirect contact with the Middle East.

WHO urged healthcare providers and officials around the globe to be vigilant in the face of the virus. WHO recommended that countries keep a high level of surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI), looking for unusual patterns or cases.

Special consideration was stressed in patients who develop SARI and recently returned from traveling in the Middle East.

Despite the calls for caution, WHO has not recommended any major international restrictions due to MERS.

"WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions," the organization noted.

However, WHO did recommend travelers take precautions like avoiding contact with those ill with respiratory infections, washing hands frequently, taking care with food safety and hygiene and avoiding close contact with both wild animals and farm animals.

Review Date: 
September 11, 2013
Last Updated:
September 12, 2013