MERS-CoV infects four more in Saudi Arabia

Continuing a pattern of fewer daily cases reported this week, Saudi Arabia’s health ministry today reported four new MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) cases, along with one more death from the disease.

All four of the patients are men from locations that have reported many recent cases: one each from Jeddah and Mecca, along with two from Medina.

One of the patients, an asymptomatic 38-year-old man with kidney failure, visited a public hospital in Mecca for routine dialysis and tested positive for the virus while there, according to a statement from the Saudi health ministry (MOH). He had been in contact with a confirmed case-patient.

The other three men are in stable condition, and no exposures were listed. All three have underlying health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. They include a 53-year-old from Jeddah and a 54-year-old and 66-year old from Medina.

For the three patients with symptoms, illness onsets ranged from May 5 to 10 and hospital admissions ranged from May 9 to 19.

The fatal case involves a 72-year-old woman who had been hospitalized in Riyadh and died yesterday. Her illness was first reported on Apr 19.

The new cases boost Saudi Arabia’s MERS total to 544, and the woman’s death lifts the country’s fatality count to 176.

Oman finds MERS in racing camels

In other developments, an official from Oman’s agriculture ministry revealed at a scientific meeting yesterday that MERS-CoV has been detected in five of the country’s racing camels, the Times of Oman reported. The camels were among 76 that were sampled, with specimens sent to Vienna for polymerase chain reaction testing. Previously, serologic tests had suggested that camels from Oman had been exposed to the virus.

An agriculture official said it’s not clear if the camels caught the virus in Oman or outside the country, according to the Times report. Oman has been conducting camel surveillance since the first human case there surfaced in October.

Veterinary authorities have restricted movement of the infected racing camels and have so far have found no other infections in camels or people who were in contact with the animals, the report said.

The camel findings were described in a 2-day technical meeting on MERS and animals that is under way in Muscat, Oman. The meeting was convened by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It had announced the meeting on May 6 as one step to better understand the role of animals in the epidemiology of MERS.

Recent studies have suggested that dromedary camels are the primary reservoir of the virus, but experts aren’t sure if other animals are involved in the spread of the virus to humans.

Orlando doctor exposed to MERS returns from Canada

Meanwhile, an Orlando doctor who was exposed to Florida’s imported MERS case and then flew to Canada before he knew he might be at risk has tested negative for the virus in Canada and has returned to the United States, the Canadian Press reported yesterday.

The man did not show any symptoms and returned to the United States with the approval of Canadian and US health officials, according to the report. He didn’t learn that he had been exposed to the MERS patient until after he arrived in Canada for a vacation. He isolated himself and was tested.

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