Total Saudi Mers deaths up to 152; US reports second Mers case as two Florida hospital workers show symptoms
Saudi health authorities announced Tuesday five new deaths from Mers, raising the total death toll in the country worst-hit by the mysterious coronavirus to 152 since it appeared in 2012.
Meanwhile, four new infections by the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome have been registered, raising the total of cases to 495, the health ministry said.
The ministry added that six patients who had been infected by the SARS-like virus have been cured.
The new deaths occurred on Monday, with one patient dying in Riyadh and the remaining four in the commercial capital Jeddah.
Mers causes fever, coughing and shortness of breath, and can be lethal particularly among older people and those existing health problems.
Meanwhile, two health workers at a hospital in Orlando, Florida who were exposed to the second patient in the United States with a confirmed case of Mers have now begun showing symptoms, and one of the two healthcare workers has been hospitalised.
Officials at the Dr P. Phillips Hospital in Orlando said on Tuesday the two healthcare workers were exposed to the patient in the emergency department before it became clear that the patient might have Mers.
The second healthcare worker is being isolated in his home and watched for signs of infection.
Some 30 percent of the several hundred people infected with it have died, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The virus first emerged in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and recent research has suggested it may originate in camels.
The vast majority of cases have been in Saudi Arabia, but Mers has also been found in 16 other countries.
Most cases involved people who had travelled to Saudi Arabia.
Tagging of camels planned
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Agriculture plans to attach electronic microchips to camels to help track the spread of the deadly Mers coronavirus, local media reported Tuesday.
Saudi authorities have also warned people to wear protective gear when dealing with camels, as the animals are thought to be spreading the virus.
Two of those who died were among eight new confirmed infections in three cities -- Riyadh, Jeddah and Madina -- while the other three had been previously diagnosed.
An earlier, unlinked US patient diagnosed with Mers was released from an Indiana hospital late last week.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) completed a five-day mission to Saudi Arabia last week and is later Tuesday set to hold the fifth meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee in Geneva.
The WHO says that the recent surge in the number of cases is likely attributed to seasonal factors combined with “several outbreaks in hospitals due to breaches in WHO’s recommended infection prevention and control measures.”
Jordan, one of several Middle Eastern nations that has seen the virus spread within its borders, is introducing additional measures at hospitals to safeguard healthcare workers, who are being disproportionately affected.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is stepping up efforts to counter various infectious diseases ahead of the Haj pilgrimage to Makkah and Madina in October.
On Monday, US health authorities confirmed a second Mers case in the country — a resident of Saudi Arabia who worked as a medic in Jeddah.
Mers has similarities to the Sars virus that broke out in Asia in 2003. It is deadlier but has a lower rate of transmission.
Symptoms of the Mers virus include fever, pneumonia and kidney failure.