Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – Saudi Arabia
From 1 through 31 March 2020, the National IHR Focal Point of Saudi Arabia reported 15 additional cases of MERS-CoV infection, including five associated deaths. The cases were reported from Riyadh (7 cases), Makkah (4 cases), Najran (3 cases), and Al Qassim (1 case) regions.
The link below provides details of the 15 reported cases.
Since 2012 until 31 March 2020, the total number of laboratory-confirmed MERS-CoV infection cases reported globally to WHO is 2553 with 876 associated deaths. The global number reflects the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases reported to WHO under the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) to date. 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 mainly in health care settings.
The notification of additional cases does not change the overall risk assessment. 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.
Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encourages all Member States to continue their surveillance 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 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.
Early identification, case management and isolation, together with appropriate infection prevention and control measures can prevent human-to-human transmission of MERS-CoV.
MERS-CoV is more severe in infected people with diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease, and immunocompromised persons. Therefore, these people 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.