Saturday 19 April 2014

MERS-CoV cases continue steep climb thanks most to 2 healthcare-related clusters...

Click on image to enlarge.
Data are for lab-confirmed cases only, and 

from FluTrackers, Ministries of Health
and the World Health Organisation Disease Outbreak
News reports.
The Jeddah cluster | Jeddah | Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 

It is the biggest of any of the clusters of MERS-CoV cases within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, MERS-central (0 to date. It has seeded at least 2 internationally exported cases (a fatal case in Malaysia and now a case in Greece). It totals 53 cases so far; the tally for this cluster began after the onset of illness in the first case, 6-Apr.

The paramedic cluster | Abu Dhabi | United Arab Emirates

Happening simultaneously and right next door is a cluster of cases that began 28-Mar. It stands at 14 cases as I compose this; most recent with an onset of 14-Apr.

These dates, starting points and information are all up in the air of course. 

There have been no solid answers from either site on how each cluster commenced, so we don't know the actual 1st case nor how they became infected, what their status is or what type of contact occurred (animal or human-to-human). 

We don't know how many cases are linked together or even whether the 2 sites are linked. We don't know whether these focal outbreaks are ongoing nor just how so many healthcare workers (HCWs) can be infected by a respiratory virus that was already well known to the region and its hospitals (Wk 109, 2.1 years since first MERS cases). 

We don't know if this outbreak is just bad infection prevention and control at some hospitals/among some people. We are all wondering how this has continued among HCWs as it seems to be? After a couple of confirmed cases wouldn't masks and gloves and gowns be standard fare - if they weren't already in the management of unknown acute respiratory disease cases? Whether a "super spreader" is involved or not, such measures should have prevented so many healthcare workers becoming infected shouldn't they? 

Is this MERS-CoV Mk II - now with the ability to transmit efficiently and rapidly (before extra prevention measures are in place)? We have no MERS-CoV sequences to answer that. Spike gene sequences would at least help us understand he virus aspects? I don't really care about complete genomes-they are for phylogeny more so than public health; changes in Spike yielded information of value in the SARS-CoV event and for coronavirus in general, and could do so again. Just sequence that region guys! Do it quickly and release that info now. It's something informative. Don't wait for a scientific paper. Start a blog and put the results on there. Not just in Arabic and then in English some time later; with Yemen, the Philippines, Malaysia and Greece picking up cases in the past week, these 60+ cases are not just a Saudi thing (although the case numbers say otherwise-but you know what I mean), it's global village thing. Just tell us what's going on with the virus! 

So many things we don't know. "So what?" you ask Go and Google "MERS SARS" and limit it to the past 24-hours. That's so what. The media are starting to heavily lean towards the "MERS is the next SARS" story again and that stirs up concern at many levels. Is that concern justified. At the moment who the heck knows??? If there is no change in Spike, while not the be-all and end-all for change in the virus, it will allow the experts to make comments that inform the media that may calm a rapidly progressing situation with economically damaging potential for the world, and the region.

For crying out loud Ministry of Health|Saudi Arabia, get ahead of this thing.


  1. The world's greatest resource for tracking MERS-CoV cases, the FluTrackers line list

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