Novel Coronavirus on the Move

Novel coronavirus infections spread to patients in Tunisia

(RxWiki News) As health officials cope with concerns about bird flu in China, a different virus is putting experts on alert in other parts of the world.

The novel coronavirus, or Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), is a SARS-like virus whose range seems to be spreading.

The virus caused infections first in the Middle East, then Europe and now two cases in the North African country of Tunisia have been reported.

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The British Medical Journal (BMJ) reported that the new Tunisian patients are “a 34-year-old man and his 35-year-old sister, who are thought to have caught the virus from their father, who became ill three days after returning from a visit to Qatar and Saudi Arabia and died on May 10.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that an investigation after the father’s death showed him to be a probable case of MERS-CoV. The case is being investigated and, according to the WHO, close family contacts are being monitored for potential symptoms of the virus.

As previously reported by dailyRx News, the bulk of MERS-CoV infections have occurred in Saudi Arabia. The latest counts from the WHO showed 22 infections, 10 of which have resulted in deaths in that country.  

Confirmed cases have also been reported in Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The first European patients had recently returned from travel to the Middle East, but according to the WHO, “In France, Tunisia and the United Kingdom, there has been limited local transmission among close contacts who had not been to the Middle East but had been in close contact with the laboratory-confirmed or probable cases.”

The latest global counts from the WHO showed 44 confirmed cases worldwide, including 22 deaths since September 2012.

The WHO urged healthcare providers worldwide to be vigilant and on alert for any strange patterns or unusual cases of severe acute respiratory infections (SARI). The WHO also advised those who develop SARI after traveling to the Middle East to be tested for MERS-CoV.

Furthermore, the WHO stressed the importance of efforts to prevent transmission to more patients in healthcare settings, saying, “Healthcare facilities that provide care for patients suspected or confirmed with MERS-CoV infection should take appropriate measures to decrease the risk of transmission of the virus to other patients, healthcare workers and visitors.”

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Review Date: 
May 22, 2013