Aug 14, 2018 | Updated: 01:42 PM EDT

Saudi Arabia Deals With Surge In Fatal MERS Cases

Sep 01, 2015 02:16 AM EDT

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Saudi Arabia has recently announced four more deaths from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). This new announcement from the Saudi Arabia's health officials is bringing the number of deadly cases of MERS in the past week to 19.

Health officials in the Middle East country admit they are worried by the timing. The Saudi Arabia kingdom is preparing to receive next month around two million Muslims for the Hajj religious pilgrimage and celebration.

In past years, MERS infections have been reported not only in countries across the Middle East but also in Asia and Europe. In Saudi Arabia, the virus first emerged in the year 2012. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), many of the recent cases in Saudi Arabia are associated with an outbreak of the contagious disease at a hospital in Riyadh.

MERS is an infectious disease caused by a coronavirus. This is a particular type of virus that also includes the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the common cold. MERS symptoms include coughs, fever, and breathing difficulties. The coronavirus that causes the disease is considered less contagious but more deadly than the SARS virus that spread globally in 2002 and killed over 8,000 peoples worldwide.

According to WHO, since September 2012, at least 515 people have died globally as a result of MERS since September 2012. A sudden spike in fatalities from MERS has been reported recently in Saudi Arabia.

Including the recent fatalities, the kingdom's Health Ministry has recorded so far a number of 507 fatalities and 1,171 reported cases since June 2012, according to reports from Arab News and France-Presse. On Sunday, August 30, two men and a woman died in Riyadh, after contracting the MERS virus. Additionally, the Health Ministry reported three new cases of men becoming infected with the virus, including a 24-year old expatriate health worker in Riyadh, and two other men from Hail and Riyadh. According to reports, the patient from Hail and the expatriate health worker are in critical condition.

After at least 46 people, including some hospital personnel, contracted the disease, Health authorities were forced to shut down the emergency ward in one of the capitals Riyadh's largest hospitals. On the directives of Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar, all the health facilities in the kingdom's capital have stepped up their preventive measures in order to safeguard against the spread of the deadly epidemic.

The Health Ministry has launched an intensive awareness campaign aiming to educate people about how the transmission of the MERS virus can be prevented and to warn people of the hazards associated with the virus.

According to the World Health Organization, it is not yet clear what the full mechanism of contracting the MERS disease is. There are some strains of MERS‐CoV that match human strains coming predominantly from camels in Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.  Other animals such as sheep, water buffalo, cows, goats, swine and wild birds have all been tested for antibodies to the virus, but no matches have been found so far.

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