A Qatari man has died in a London hospital from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the UK’s Telegraph reports.
The man, who hasn’t been named, was diagnosed with MERS last September after a trip to Saudi Arabia.
Five days after becoming ill, the 49-year-old was flown to the UK via air ambulance for treatment in a specialist unit run by the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS trust. He died in hospital on June 28.
Cases in Qatar
The man is the first Qatari national to die from the virus, but his death is not the first MERS case to be linked to Qatar.
A Tunisian man who visited the country in March last year – and who later died in his home country – is thought to have contracted MERS in Qatar.
After 10 months in hospital, Dr. Jon Bible, one of the Qatari patient’s doctors, told the Telegraph that the exact cause of his death is not yet known:
“We still don’t know exactly what killed him. In the end his lungs were worn down, so secondary infection is the real problem. The virus effectively turns your lungs to jelly.”
No new cases of MERS have been identified in Qatar since last year, but the virus continues to cause considerable concern in neighboring Saudi Arabia, where the government has just confirmed two more deaths, bringing the death toll in KSA to 36, the highest number of infections in any country worldwide.
The virus has a high mortality rate – MERS has proved fatal in 65 percent of cases, compared to fellow coronavirus SARS, which had a mortality rate of 10 percent during the outbreak in 2003.
Although WHO does not currently recommend any travel restrictions in MERS-affected countries, concern has been raised by some doctors who fear that the annual Hajj pilgrimage to KSA in October could prove a breeding ground for new cases.
However, a WHO spokesman told the International Business Times that he doesn’t believe anyone planning a Hajj pilgrimage has reason to panic:
“Over the past 15 months, there have only been 77 cases. So that’s not a lot,” the spokesman told the IB Times.
“We haven’t seen human to human transmission in the community, only where there has been very close contact. The Saudis themselves say, if you’re pregnant, a child or if you’re infirm, you shouldn’t do pilgrimage. They give that advice every year in any case so it is just being reiterated this year.”
To date, cases have been reported in Jordan, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Britain, France, Italy, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.
The most common symptoms of MERS are a fever, cough and breathing difficulties, and occasionally diarrhea in patients with weakened immune systems.
The virus, which is spread by coughing and sneezing, has so far only been transmitted between humans in households, between colleagues, or in a hospital.
It is thought to be of animal origin, but scientists are still researching its exact source.
Credit: Photo by Nick Jeffery