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MERS cases rise by 2, deaths by 5, as Saudi uptick

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    Posted: February 20 2015 at 6:24am
MERS cases rise by 2, deaths by 5, as Saudi uptick continues

The recent rise in MERS-CoV activity continues in Saudi Arabia, with two new cases reported by the country's Ministry of Health (MOH) today, along with five deaths and two recoveries in previously reported cases.

The new cases are in elderly men, neither one a health worker and both with preexisting disease. Their infections bring to 899 the number of MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) cases in Saudi Arabia since June 2012.

One case-patient is an 89-year-old Saudi from Riyadh who is in stable condition. He had no known exposure to animals or to confirmed or suspected MERS-CoV patients in the community setting, but exposure to infected patients in the hospital or clinic setting is "under investigation."

The other patient is an 83-year-old Saudi from Khobar who is in critical condition. He had no known exposure to animals or to MERS patients in the community setting but did have exposure in the healthcare setting.

The five deaths occurred in an 85-year-old Saudi man from Riyadh; two Saudi women from Khobar, ages 83 and 70; and two men from Buraydah, one a 23-year-old expatriate and the other a 25-year-old Saudi. All had preexisting disease and none was a health worker. The total number of deaths in Saudi Arabia now stands at 382.

Recoveries in previously reported cases occurred in two men, a 42-year-old expatriate from Buraydah and a 29-year-old Saudi from Riyadh. Neither is a health worker; only the latter case-patient had preexisting disease. Twenty-seven cases of MERS-CoV remain active in the country, plus two listed as "on home isolation." The number of recoveries totals 488, according to the MOH.
Feb 19 MOH update

In related news, the MOH has ordered 3-month suspension of leaves for health personnel in Saudi Arabia whose work involves combating MERS-CoV, according to a story today from Xinhua, China's news agency, and the possibility exists that no leaves will be allowed until after the flu season. The action was taken because of the recent rise in activity.

An MOH statement translated today by the blog Avian Flu Diary suggests that MERS-CoV may have a seasonal pattern of occurrence since its discovery in 2012, given a slight increase in cases in May 2013, followed by a 10-fold increase in spring (April through June) 2014 over spring 2013, and the already fivefold increase this February over the same period last year. The current uptick could indicate an early start to "MERS season," says the MOH.
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