Updated on May 23 with information from the SCH on the fourth MERS case of this year.
Qatar’s Supreme Council of Health (SCH) has confirmed that a 29-year-old male expat who worked on a camel farm and a 73-year-old Qatari national have been diagnosed with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS).
This brings the total number of confirmed MERS cases in Qatar this year to four, the SCH said last night, May 22.
The Qatari patient, who also has an acute respiratory infection, had his MERS diagnosis confirmed at Hamad Medical Corp’s laboratories.
An SCH rapid response team has undertaken an “extensive search” of all those people who had contact with the patient. Those traced will be monitored over two weeks and those who develop respiratory symptoms will be screened, the health authority said.
Meanwhile, just the day before the SCH announced that a Qatar-based camel worker had tested positive for MERS. He is in a stable condition and is in the hospital with “strict infection prevention and control measures” in place.
He became ill with a cough and fever on May 14, and sought treatment at a primary health care center five days later. The man tested positive for MERS and was transferred to hospital for treatment on May 20, the SCH said in a statement.
The patient has no chronic diseases or conditions, and did not travel during the infection’s incubation period, the state health authority added.
The barn where the man worked, which has not been named, is under investigation by a joint Health Protection and Communicable Disease Control team along with the Animal Health Department, where other workers and camels are being tested.
Qatar’s SCH has not confirmed the total number of MERS cases in the state, however according to the online infectious diseases message board Flutrackers, these are Qatar’s 15th cases overall. Six of these cases have proved fatal, it says.
The last few days have also seen new cases confirmed in Saudi Arabia, where the official MERS count is now more than 1,000 since June 2012, according to the US Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP).
Meanwhile, South Korea announced its first cases of the virus this week. There, a 68-year-0ld man who traveled through the Gulf region on business tested positive, and has since passed on the infection to his wife and his initial hospital roommate.
Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) has also confirmed two new cases of MERS in the past week. A 29-year-old lorry driver, who transported camels from Oman, was found to be carrying the coronavirus but did not show any symptoms. The authority said a second person has tested positive, but also is not displaying any symptoms.
Both are in the hospital under isolation, HAAD said in a statement issued on May 20.
In June last year, initial results from studies found links between MERS and people working with dromedary camels, prompting new advice and infection control tips for those in close contact with the animals.
MERS is a viral respiratory illness, and can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms include fever, coughing, a sore throat and in some cases, diarrhea.
Qatar authorities have said residents visiting farms, markets, barns or other places where animals are present should practice “general hygiene measures, including regular hand washing before and after touching animals, and avoid contact with sick animals.”
It also advised people with diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease, and immuno-compromised residents to avoid contact with camels, drinking raw camel milk or eating meat that has not been properly cooked.
On its website, the SCH said it is “closely following all acute respiratory distress patients admitted in the hospitals” and that the Hamad Medical Corp. lab runs MERS tests for such patients as a part of the routine respiratory panel.
Anyone with questions or symptoms can call the SCH’s dedicated MERS hotline at 6674 0948 or 6674 4095.