Emergencies preparedness, response

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

Disease outbreak news
8 May 2015

On 1 May 2015, the National IHR Focal Point for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia notified WHO of 1 additional case of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection.

Details of the case are as follows:

A 35-year-old male from Khamis Mushait city developed symptoms on 27 April and was admitted to hospital on 29 April. The patient has comorbidities. He has no history of direct contact with camels or consumption of raw camel products; however, his house is adjacent to a camel market. The patient has no history of exposure to other known risk factors in the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms. Currently, he is in critical condition in ICU. Contact tracing of household and healthcare contacts is ongoing for this case.

Globally, WHO has been notified of 1111 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including at least 422 related deaths.

WHO advice

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 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 early because like other respiratory infections, the early symptoms of MERS-CoV are non-specific. Therefore, health-care 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.

Until more is understood about MERS-CoV, people with diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease, and immunocompromised persons are considered to be at high risk of severe disease from MERS‐CoV infection. Therefore, these people should avoid close contact with animals, particularly camels, 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.