The case count of MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) in Saudi Arabia has risen from 575 to 688, following a review of old data that revealed 113 unreported cases. The number of deaths has also been revised from 190 to 282. This review emerged following the dismissal of Deputy Health Minister Ziad Memish from his position, announced in a brief Saudi Ministry of Health Statement on June 2. Memish had frequently been criticized for the lack of transparency in the Saudi Ministry of Health’s reporting of MERS cases; his release from the Ministry of Health brings the hope for better reporting and increased collaboration to combat the disease.
In other MERS news, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on May 31 that two Algerian men have been diagnosed with MERS-CoV. These are the first MERS cases seen in Algeria. Both had contracted the disease on pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia. Another death has also been reported in Jordan, bringing the country’s total to 6 fatalities. According to the ECDC’s May 31 MERS update, there have been two confirmed imported cases of MERS in the United States—one in Indiana and one in Florida. Another suspected case in the United States, a contact of the first case in Illinois, was ruled out in a CDC press release. The latest update (June 4) from the WHO reports 681 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV and 204 MERS-CoV-related deaths.
The European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) has reported increasing evidence that dromedary camels on the Arabian Peninsula are hosts for MERS-CoV and that they play a key role in spreading the virus to humans. Human-to-human transmission has been observed, often between close contacts and in healthcare settings. There is still no vaccine for MERS-CoV, but treatment methods aim to relieve the symptoms of the virus. The CDC recommends basic prevention methods such as good hand hygiene, avoidance of personal contact, and using a tissue when coughing or sneezing.