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Emirati dies from coronavirus infection

Officials stress that Mers virus still not a cause for concern

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Despite the death of another Emirati from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (Mers-CoV) infection, health officials stressed that there is no cause for concern about the disease yet.

The latest victim was a 64-year-old man from Abu Dhabi, and according to an official at the UAE Infection Control Committee, he succumbed to the infection on Sunday (March 30). The UAE Ministry of Health accordingly notified the World Health Organisation (WHO) about the case.

According to the official, the patient had had direct contact with camels, and also suffered from underlying conditions, including diabetes and hyperlipidemia. He was being treated at a public hospital at the capital when he passed away.

His death follows that of a 40-year-old Omani resident in Abu Dhabi on March 24, and the infection of another Emirati man aged 49 years who had had contact with a previously-infected farm owner.

The total number of cases of Mers infection worldwide has now surpassed 200, and was recorded at 206 laboratory-confirmed cases and 86 deaths in the latest WHO disease outbreak report issued on March 27. However, these statistics, collected since September 2012, did not include the latest death in Abu Dhabi.

“Nevertheless, the situation is not yet worrying because the majority of cases in the UAE have been noted among elderly people who are already suffering from other chronic conditions,” the Infection Control official said.

“We are continuing to monitor cases across the country, and in accordance with international recommendations, are notifying the WHO regarding any new cases,” he added.

The Mers virus resembles the Severe Acute Respiratory Symdrome virus that killed a tenth of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide in late 2002 and early 2003. It has a mortality rate between 40 and 50 per cent, but health experts say its transmission has been limited so far.

The source of the virus and its transfer to humans is not yet known, although bats and camels have been mentioned in previous studies. For those visiting farms and animal shelters, the WHO has therefore urged adopting general hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing before and after touching animals, and avoiding contact with sick creatures.

People at high risk of severe disease due to Mers-CoV have also been recommended to avoid close contact with animals when visiting facilities where the virus is known to be potentially circulating.