Sunday, April 3, 2016

MERS is Widespread in Saudi Arabia

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) has infected at least 1370 individuals (including asymptomatic cases) in Saudi Arabia since 2012 (e.g. ProMED link). Since mid-February 2016, Buraidah in Al Qassim region in Saudia Arabia has been experiencing a local MERS outbreak with 23 cases reported through March 16, 2016 (link). As of April 3, 2016 there have been an additional 11 cases reported, bringing the total cases reported from Buraidah by Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health to 34.  Many of these cases are a result of nosocomial infection, but perhaps as many as eight of these cases were community acquired infections with some individuals having contact with animals. Among these 34 cases, 17 have been reported as deaths so far. (see note)

While the Buraidah MERS outbreak has raised concerns, the 34 cases from Buraidah represented about 40% of all MERS cases reported from Saudi Arabia since January 1, 2016. The majority of MERS cases since January 1, 2016, about 49 cases, have been reported from numerous other locations around Saudi Arabia as shown in the map below. 

Since January 1, 2016, human MERS cases have been reported from at least 23 populated places scattered across Saudi Arabia. The widespread geographic distribution of these cases suggests that MERS has now become endemic in Saudi Arabia.

 Note: The total cases from Buraidah include a 60 year-old male who experienced symptom onset in Hail and was treated in the Buraidah hospital where he died (Case No 3. DON March 21,  2016)