The World Health Organization (WHO) has been informed of two laboratory-confirmed cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection in Saudi Arabia on Oct. 18 and Oct. 19, 2013, and three laboratory-confirmed cases on Sept. 18, 2013.
Of the five laboratory-confirmed cases, two died. The ages of the five patients range from 35 to 83 years old; four men and one woman; two from Medinah and three Riyadh. Four patients had underlying medical conditions. Two patients reported having no contact with a laboratory-confirmed case or with animals prior to becoming ill.
Globally, from September 2012 to date, WHO has been informed of a total of 144 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 62 deaths.
Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encourages all of its member states to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns.
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.
Patients diagnosed and reported to date have had respiratory disease as their primary illness. Diarrhea is commonly reported among the patients and severe complications include renal failure and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) with shock. It is possible that severely immunocompromised patients can present with atypical signs and symptoms.
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, health care 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.