Home Covid News and Updates Resurgent Threat: MERS-CoV Returns in Saudi Arabia, Sparking Global Health Alert

Resurgent Threat: MERS-CoV Returns in Saudi Arabia, Sparking Global Health Alert

by Dr. Shruthi R
MERS Covid resurfaces in Saudi Arabia

MERS-CoV has resurfaced in Saudi Arabia with three new cases reported, raising concerns due to its high severity and low contagion. The virus primarily transmits from camels to humans, with severe cases necessitating advanced medical support.

The Saudi Arabian health ministry has reported a resurgence of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) with three new cases identified in Riyadh from April 10 to April 17, 2024. Sadly, one of these cases resulted in death. The patients, all male and aged between 56 and 60, had underlying health conditions and were not healthcare workers. These recent cases increase the total number of MERS-CoV cases in Saudi Arabia for the year to four, with two fatalities.

MERS-CoV is a zoonotic virus, meaning it is transmitted from animals, specifically camels, to humans. The virus is primarily contracted through direct or indirect contact with infected dromedary camels, a common livestock animal in the Middle East. Human-to-human transmission is possible but less common and typically requires close contact with an infected individual, which makes it less contagious than COVID-19 but significantly more severe.

Dr. Syed Abdul Aleem, a consultant pulmonologist at CARE Hospitals in Hyderabad, emphasizes that the risk of contracting MERS-CoV is particularly high among those who handle camels or live in areas where the virus is widespread. Vulnerable populations, including individuals with diabetes, chronic lung disease, or weakened immune systems, are at an increased risk of developing severe complications from the virus.

The clinical presentation of MERS-CoV can vary but often includes fever, cough, and shortness of breath, similar to symptoms of COVID-19. However, MERS-CoV can progress to more severe respiratory conditions such as pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Some patients may also experience gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea.

Despite its severity, there is no specific antiviral treatment approved for MERS-CoV. Management of the disease focuses on supportive care to relieve symptoms, with severe cases requiring hospitalization and advanced respiratory support such as supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation.

Preventative measures against MERS-CoV include avoiding contact with camels, practicing good hand hygiene, and maintaining distance from people showing respiratory symptoms. Public health officials continue to monitor the situation closely, particularly the potential for virus mutations or increased transmission rates that could impact control measures and public safety.

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