MERS outbreak in Saudi Arabia sparks concerns over origin

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MERS outbreak in Saudi Arabia raises alarm as source remains unknown.

SAUDI ARABIA, May 11: Health authorities are urgently investigating the source of a MERS outbreak in Saudi Arabia after three individuals, with no direct contact with camels, contracted the coronavirus. MERS, short for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, presents a significant health threat, with a mortality rate of 35 percent among confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

While previous outbreaks of MERS have been linked to dromedary camels and individuals working closely with these animals or their raw milk, the current outbreak, detected when a 56-year-old school teacher in Riyadh was hospitalized in early April, has not been definitively linked to camel exposure. This raises concerns that milder cases may be circulating undetected, potentially impacting the overall case fatality rate.

The WHO reported that investigations are ongoing to determine the source of the infection, as authorities endeavor to prevent further transmission. Contact tracing efforts have been initiated after two additional cases, both men aged 60, tested positive for the virus in the same hospital.

Dr. Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, emphasized the critical role of infection prevention programs in hospitals, underscoring the potential for healthcare facilities to serve as sources of transmission.

Since its initial detection in 2012, MERS has spread to 27 countries, with Saudi Arabia reporting the majority of cases. Despite ongoing research and development, there are currently no approved antiviral treatments, vaccines, or rapid diagnostics for MERS, highlighting the urgency of containing the outbreak.

While the recent cases in Riyadh do not alter the overall risk assessment, health experts stress the importance of vigilance in detecting and controlling MERS transmission. As investigations continue, authorities aim to identify the index case, which likely initiated the outbreak, to effectively contain the spread of the virus.

This news has been read 1098 times!

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