Fatal MERS Virus Outbreak Surges Throughout Middle East
The deadly virus known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), has seen a surge of cases reported throughout Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the entire Middle East. The Wall Street Journal reported that the UAE announced six confirmed cases among paramedics alone over the weekend, one of whom has died from the illness.
Scientists have linked (MERS-CoV) in camels in Egypt, adding to other evidence signifying that camels may be a source of human infections. Although the virus does not spread easily from person to person contact, the uptick in the amount of medical workers contracting the virus has caused concern among doctors and government officials. They are worried that the Arab Gulf governments have mishandled the outbreak that has plagued the region since April 2012.
One Saudi doctor at the largest public hospital in Jeddah, King Fahd General Hospital, faulted the Saudis saying, "I'm not sure that they are actually seeing how big this thing is." The doctor wishes that until the outbreak subsides the entire hospital should be shut down.
Moreover, last week accounted for the most cases reported since the outbreak occurred, according to Dr. Ian M. Mackay, an Australian epidemiologist who has been monitoring the epidemic closely. MacKay observed that 50 of the overall cases involve health-care workers, which he claims is a “strong warning” that proper measures have not been taken to prevent the outbreak from growing. "As far as we know, MERS-CoV does not spread easily from person-to-person, so these clusters suggest a breakdown in infection prevention and control."
Yet, after visiting Jeddah hospitals on Saturday, Saudi Arabia's health minister, Dr. Abdullah al Rabeea, told reporters that what he witnessed was "reassuring" and that the case flow was at a "normal" rate. Just hours later, The ministry announced four more cases, three of them in health workers.
The Journal further reported that the U.A.E. issued a statement this weekend identifying five more infected expatriate paramedics who are being quarantined after the death of one of their colleagues.