The World Health Organization (WHO) has been informed of an additional two laboratory-confirmed cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection in Qatar.
The patients include a 59-year-old man with an underlying medical condition who became ill on Aug. 15, 2013. He is currently hospitalized and is in stable condition.
Preliminary epidemiological investigations reveal that the patient traveled to Medina, Saudi Arabia for six days and returned to Qatar on Aug. 15, 2013. He did not take part in Umrah and did not visit to Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina. Further investigation is ongoing.
The second patient is a 29-year-old man with an underlying medical condition who had no history of recent travel outside the country.
The results of both the cases were confirmed by an international reference laboratory. A total of 138 healthcare workers, family and community contacts have been screened in the country and so far all tested negative for MERS-CoV infection.
Globally, from September 2012 to date, WHO has been informed of a total of 104 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 49 deaths.
Healthcare providers are advised to maintain vigilance. Recent travelers returning from the Middle East who develop SARI should be tested for MERS-CoV as advised in the current surveillance recommendations. Specimens from patients lower respiratory tracts should be obtained for diagnosis where possible. Clinicians are reminded that MERS-CoV infection should be considered even with atypical signs and symptoms, such as diarrhoea, in patients who are immunocompromised.
Healthcare facilities are reminded of the importance of systematic implementation of infection prevention and control (IPC). Healthcare facilities that provide care for patients suspected or confirmed with MERS-CoV infection should take appropriate measures to decrease the risk of transmission of the virus to other patients, healthcare workers and visitors.
WHO has convened an Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations (IHR) to advise the Director-General on the status of the current situation. The Emergency Committee, which comprises international experts from all WHO Regions, unanimously advised that, with the information now available, and using a risk-assessment approach, the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) have not at present been met.