This story has been updated with more information about the patient from the World Health Organization.
The Supreme Council of Health (SCH) has announced Qatar’s seventh recorded case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the first case involving a non-Qatari.
A 23-year-old male expat was recently diagnosed with the virus after tests carried out by the National Influenza Center proved positive, the SCH said in a statement released last night. His nationality has not been disclosed.
The World Health Organization has released further details about the case, linking the 23-year-old expat man to the 61-year-old Qatari who has now been released from hospital, having recovered from the virus. The WHO states that the expat works in an “animal barn” owned by the Qatari patient, who owns a farm with camels, sheep, and chickens.
The WHO confirms that the 23-year-old had developed mild symptoms of the illness, but is now in good health, and adds that he hasn’t traveled outside the country in recent times.
A recent study published in the medical journal Lancet Infectious Diseases suggested that camels may be aiding in the spread of the virus.
After testing the blood of livestock in various countries, researchers found high levels of MERS antibodies in all 50 dromedary (Arabian) camels tested in Oman, indicating that the animals had been exposed to the virus.
The 23-year-old’s MERS infection was discovered during routine testing, the SCH said, adding that all other contacts have been tested and proved negative.
Meanwhile, the 61-year-old Qatari man who had been diagnosed with MERS earlier this month has now been discharged from hospital. The man, who suffers from “chronic conditions,” was tested after he developed flu-like symptoms.
The SCH were unable to provide any further details when contacted by Doha News.
Flu prevention advice
Although MERS is as yet very rare in Qatar, cases may well increase as we enter the winter flu season, which generally begins in October and reaches a peak in January or February. Symptoms of both viruses are similar, and could include cough, breathing problems and fever.
To help prevent the spread of all flu viruses in Qatar, Dr. Hashem al-Sayed told the Gulf Times that parents should keep children with flu-like symptoms out of school, and suggested that ill children who do attend wear a mask and avoid sharing eating utensils with other pupils.
“Keeping good personal hygiene including regular hand washing will keep bacteria and viruses at bay. But the best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year,” he added.
Seasonal flu vaccines are currently available from primary health centers across Qatar, and some organizations are holding special vaccination clinics, including Qatar University, which is hosting vaccination centers for staff and students this week.
MERS, which comes from the same family of coronaviruses as the highly contagious and deadly SARS, was first discovered last September in the Gulf. It presents as a severe respiratory infection that can cause breathing difficulties, fever and cough.
The virus spreads through close human-to-human contact, but the exact cause remains unknown, though scientists suspect it has animal origins.
So far, most of the those who have come down with the virus and not recovered have suffered from chronic illnesses such as diabetes or asthma. In Qatar, a 29-year-old man and a 56-year-old woman, both locals, died last month in Hamad Hospital after being diagnosed with MERS. And a 49-year-old Qatari man diagnosed with the illness last fall passed away at a London hospital over the summer.
Anyone with questions or concerns about MERS can call the SCH’s 24/7 hotline: +974-6674-0951.
Is there an incubation period for MERS, during which no symptoms are experienced? Is it contagious during that time?
Yes. Read some of the foreign language press and they give these sorts of details. I am no expert and am loathe to spread incorrect information, but I think it was about 5 days or so.
It is around 12 days now. There was a case of French man who began showing symptoms after 12 days.
is there any vaccine available already?
I don’t think there is anything really to be concerned about, the infection rates are so low you should be more worried about bee stings. Remember pig flu? How quickly that spread panic in the middle east but it died out just as quickly…
Very true, but I also remember the effect that SARS had on Toronto and the economic and social disruption it caused.