In preparation for a potential outbreak, Hamad Medical Corp. has set aside 18 rooms for any patients who come down with the newly discovered respiratory virus thought to have originated in the Gulf.
According to the Peninsula newspaper, no new cases have been reported in Qatar, but neighboring Saudi Arabia continues to grapple with a new cluster of cases of the novel coronavirus (nCoV), which hails from the same family as SARS.
In the past month, 22 people have been diagnosed with the virus in Hofuf, in Saudi’s Eastern Province, and nine have died, the World Health Organization states.
Middle East origins
Internationally, WHO said there are 41 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with nCoV, including 20 deaths. Thirty-one of the infections are from Saudi Arabia, while other patients hail from Qatar, Jordan, the UAE, France, Germany and the UK. WHO adds that all the European cases had links to the Middle East.
The virus, which was discovered last September in KSA, did not originally appear to spread through human to human contact. But in recent weeks, WHO said that transmission between those in contact with infected people is possible. It also offered more details on the patients:
Most patients are male (79%; 31 of 39 cases with sex reported), and range in age from 24 to 94 years (median 56 years). All of the laboratory confirmed cases had respiratory disease as part of the illness, and most had severe acute respiratory disease requiring hospitalization.
Reported clinical features include acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), renal failure requiring hemodialysis, consumptive coagulopathy, and pericarditis. Many patients have also had gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea during the course of their illness.
The organization still does not recommend travel restrictions or special screenings at borders, but did say it expects to hear about more cases. It added:
The recent increase in cases may in part be related to increased awareness among the medical community, however the demonstrated ability of this virus to transmit between humans and to cause large outbreaks, has increased concerns about the possibility of sustained transmission.
Countries in the Middle East in particular should maintain a high level of vigilance and a low threshold for testing of suspect cases.
Meanwhile, HMC’s Chief of Staff Dr. Yousef Al Muslamani said the hospital was prepared to meet any emergency situations, adding that it is not time to panic. The Peninsula reports him as saying “all measures had been taken to quickly and properly deal with any suspected case of coronavirus in the country.”
Credit: Photo by Madilyn Pieper