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WHO: Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) - Saudi Arabia (14 April 2021)

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  • WHO: Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) - Saudi Arabia (14 April 2021)


    Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) - Saudi Arabia

    14 April 2021

    Between 1 January 2021 and 11 March 2021, the National IHR Focal Point of Saudi Arabia reported seven additional cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) infection, including three associated deaths. Additional death was reported from a previously reported case (Case #2, please see Disease outbreak news published on 1 February 2021). The cases were reported from Riyadh (four cases), Jeddah (one case), Al-Ahsaa (one case), Makkah (one case) regions.
    The link below provides details of the seven reported casesSince 2012 until 11 March 2021, a total of 2574 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV and 886 associated deaths were reported globally to WHO under the International Health regulations (IHR 2005). The total number of deaths includes the deaths that WHO is aware of to date through follow-up with affected member states.

    WHO risk assessment

    Infection with MERS-CoV can cause severe disease resulting in high mortality. Humans are infected with MERS-CoV from direct or indirect contact with dromedaries. MERS-CoV has demonstrated the ability to transmit between humans. So far, the observed non-sustained human-to-human transmission has occurred among close contacts and in health care settings.
    The notification of additional cases does not change the overall risk assessment. However, with the current COVID-19 pandemic, the testing capacity for MERS-CoV have been severely affected in many countries since most of the resources have been redirected towards SARS-CoV-2. The Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia is working to increase the testing capacities for better detection of MERS-CoV infections.
    WHO expects that additional cases of MERS-CoV infection will be reported from the Middle East, and that cases will continue to be exported to other countries by individuals who might acquire the infection after exposure to dromedaries, animal products (for example, consumption of camel?s raw milk), or humans (for example, in a health care setting).
    WHO continues to monitor the epidemiological situation and conducts risk assessment based on the latest available information.

    WHO advice

    Based on the current situation and available information, WHO re-emphasizes the importance of strong surveillance by all Member States for acute respiratory infections and to carefully review any unusual patterns.
    Infection prevention and control measures (IPC) are critical to prevent the possible spread of MERS-CoV between people in health care facilities. It is not always possible to identify patients with MERS-CoV infection early because like other respiratory infections, the early symptoms of MERS-CoV infection are non-specific. Therefore, healthcare workers should always apply standard precautions consistently with all patients, regardless of their diagnosis. Droplet precautions should be added to the standard precautions when providing care to patients with symptoms of acute respiratory infection; contact precautions and eye protection should be added when caring for probable or confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection; airborne precautions should be applied when performing aerosol generating procedures or in settings where aerosol generating procedures are conducted.
    Early identification, case management and isolation of cases, supported quarantine of contacts, together with appropriate infection prevention and control measures and clear and consistent risk communication can prevent human-to-human transmission of MERS-CoV.
    MERS-CoV appears to cause more severe disease in people with diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease, and immunocompromised persons. Therefore, people with these underlying medical conditions should avoid close contact with animals, particularly dromedaries, when visiting farms, markets, or barn areas where the virus is known to be potentially circulating. General hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing before and after touching animals and avoiding contact with sick animals, should be adhered to.
    Food hygiene practices should be observed. People should avoid drinking raw camel milk or camel urine, or eating meat that has not been properly cooked.
    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.

    Further information

    See all DONs related to this event