Riyadh: Saudi health authorities announced on Saturday two new deaths from the Mers coronavirus, raising to 111 the number of fatalities since the disease appeared in the kingdom in September 2012.
A 25-year-old man has died in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah and a woman of 69, who suffered from tuberculosis and anaemia, died in Makkah, also in western Saudi Arabia, the health ministry said.
It later said the death toll has now climbed to 111, revising its earlier figure of 109 deaths. At the same time, 35 new cases of the severe respiratory disease have been recorded, raising the number infected in Saudi Arabia over the past two years to 396, the world’s highest tally.
American health officials on Friday said the first case of Mers has been confirmed in the US.
The person infected with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (Mers-CoV) is a health care provider who had travelled to Riyadh for work, they said.
He is hospitalised in good condition in northwest Indiana with Mers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Indiana health officials said Friday.
The virus is not highly contagious and this case “represents a very low risk to the broader, general public,” Dr. Anne Schuchat told reporters during a CDC briefing.
The federal agency plans to track down passengers he may have been in close contact with during his travels” it was not clear how many may have been exposed to the virus.
So far, it is not known how he was infected, Schuchat said.
Officials didn’t provide details about the American’s job in Saudi Arabia or whether he treated Mers patients.
Experts said it was just a matter of time before Mers showed up in the US, as it has in Europe and Asia.
“Given the interconnectedness of our world, there’s no such thing as ‘it stays over there and it can’t come here,’” said Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, a Columbia University Mers expert.
Federal and state health officials on Friday released only limited information about the US case: On April 24, the man flew from Riyadh - Saudi Arabia’s capital and largest city - to the United States, with a stop in London. He landed in Chicago and took a bus to nearby Indiana. He didn’t become sick until Sunday, the CDC said.
He went to the emergency room at Community Hospital in Munster the next day with a fever, cough and shortness of breath. He was admitted and tested for the Mers virus because he had travelled from the Middle East. The hospital said he was in good condition.
The hospital said it would monitor the man’s family and health care workers who treated him for any signs of infection.
There’s been a recent surge in Mers illnesses in Saudi Arabia. Experts think the uptick may partly be due to more and better surveillance. Columbia’s Lipkin has an additional theory — there may be more virus circulating in the spring, when camels are born.
The CDC has issued no warnings about travel to countries involved in the outbreak. However, anyone who develops fever, cough or shortness of breath within two weeks of travelling in or near the Arabian Peninsula should see their doctor and mention their travel history.
Last week, Egypt recorded its first infection after a person who arrived from Saudi Arabia tested positive. Public concern over the spread of Mers has mounted after the resignation of at least four doctors at Jeddah’s King Fahd Hospital. They refused to treat patients.