Science » Mysteries
Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Novel coronavirus infection - More fatalities

In February in this column it was reported that there were twelve cases, six deaths - a fifty per cent mortality rate from this new viral infection sweeping across Saudi Arabia. Three months on, 44 patients, 22 deaths - yet still no travel or trade restrictions.

The latest (fatal) case has been reported by the Saudi Ministry of Health - a laboratory-confirmed case of what is now termed MERS-CoV - Middle East respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus. This case, from the centre of the country, at Al-Qaseem, is not related to the cluster of MERS-CoV reported from the eastern Al-Ahsa region.

The patient was a 63-year-oldman with health problems, admitted to hospital with severe respiratory distress on May 15. He died on May 20. The disease broke out in September 2012 and there have been confirmed cases in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). France, Germany, Tunisia and the United Kingdom.

According to the WHO, for the cases outside Saudi Arabia, there were "also reported laboratory-confirmed cases; they were either transferred for care of the disease or returned from Middle East and subsequently became ill. In France, Tunisia and the United Kingdom, there has been limited local transmission among close contacts who had not been to the Middle East but had been in close contact with the laboratory-confirmed or probable cases".

First appearing in 2012, Novel Coronavirus is a new strain of the Coronavirus which causes a number of infections to humans and animals, the most common of which is the common cold. It also causes more pathogenic diseases such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

How are these things documented? What about, in the WHO's own report, "the number of health care workers with pneumonia associated with the considered probable case(s)"? They don't count. And those in Norway? Why have they "disappeared" from the media?

The WHO admits that the appearance of pneumonia among healthcare workers and family members "increases the suspicion that person-to-person transmission may have occurred". In the WHO's own reaction to the recent cases in the UK, this is more than confirmed: "The United Kingdom (UK) has informed WHO of another confirmed case of infection with the novel coronavirus (NCoV). This is the third case confirmed in the country this month and is in the same family cluster as the two recently confirmed cases.  The latest confirmed case does not have recent travel history outside the UK".

The Novel Coronavirus is sufficiently serious to have the WHO instructing the affected countries to test for new cases and have enhanced surveillance measures and communication with neighbouring countries. With significant numbers of people travelling to the area for different reasons, watch out for the next pandemic.

Sources: WHO

Department of Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response, Global Influenza Programme


Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey



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