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No Letup: 4 more MERS Deaths, 18 New Infections in Saudi

Medical workers and foreigners wear masks as they leave a local hospital’s emergency department in Jeddah. Four more MERS deaths were reported late Wednesday, including The Health Ministry reported more MERS cases in Jeddah, including 8 new infections and two deaths. (AFP)

JEDDAH: Four more people in the Kingdom have succumbed to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus, taking the toll further up to 121, the Ministry of Health announced Thursday.

In an update posted on its website late Wednesday, the ministry also announced 18 new MERS infections, raising the tally to 449.

One of the fatalities, a 65-year-old woman in Riyadh who was suffering from diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and a brain stroke, was admitted to a government hospital on April 12 and she died on May 6.

The three others — a 75-year-old woman in Jeddah, a 60-year-old man in Jeddah and a 45-year-old woman in Riyadh — had previously been recorded as confirmed cases and all died on May 5, the report said.

Among the 18 people newly infected is a 10-year-old boy who was taken to a government hospital in Jeddah following an accident on April 29.

After he was discharged from the hospital on May 2, MERS symptoms began to appear and he was rushed to intensive care.

Jeddah had the highest number of new infections at 8, followed by Riyadh with five, Madinah with three, and Makkah and Najran had one each.

On Tuesday, Acting Health Minister Adel Fakeih replaced the top management of King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah, where a spike in MERS infections among medical staff has sparked public panic.

Fakieh subsequently announced an awareness campaign to help stop the disease’s spread, urging people not only to follow strict measures of hygiene, but specifically to avoid sick camels and refrain from eating raw camel meat or drinking unboiled camel milk.

The World Health Organization (WHO) after a five-day mission to Jeddah pinpointed breaches in its “recommended infection prevention and control measures” as being partly responsible for an increase in infections in Jeddah.

The disease, which first appeared in the kingdom in September 2012, has now infected a total number 449 Saudis, accounting for the bulk of cases registered across the globe.

The WHO said the recent increase in numbers of infections does not suggest a “significant change in the transmissibility of the virus.”

“The majority of human-to-human infections occurred in health care facilities,” it said, adding that “one quarter of all cases have been health care workers.”
The team urged health care workers to improve their “knowledge and attitudes” about the disease.

MERS is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus that erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died.
There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments for MERS, a disease with a mortality rate of more than 40 percent that experts are still struggling to understand.

Some researchers think it may originate in camels. —ArabNews

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