The World Health Organization has announced four cases of coronavirus from Saudi Arabia in recent weeks

A recent outbreak warning issued by World Health Organization The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported four laboratory-confirmed cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) from three regions of Saudi Arabia.

Status update: Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) - Saudi Arabia.  Image credit: Amani A/Shutterstock

Position update: Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – Saudi Arabia. Image credit: Amani A/Shutterstock


Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a zoonotic respiratory infection caused by MERS-CoV, a coronavirus transmitted from dromedary camels. Most MERS-CoV infections are asymptomatic or cause mild symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath, and cough. However, severe infections have been observed in the elderly and in individuals with comorbidities such as cancer, diabetes, kidney and lung disease. Other reported symptoms include pneumonia and diarrhoea.

While MERS-CoV shows human-to-human transmission, cases have been restricted to close contacts and within a healthcare setting. Although vaccines and treatments have been developed against MERS-CoV, at present, there are no vaccines, and treatments are only for symptom relief.

Corona virus outbreak

In April 2022, WHO reported six previous coronavirus infections, including four deaths, from Saudi Arabia between August 2021 and February 2022. The latest outbreak consists of two cases from Riyadh and one each from Qassim and Makkah. Makrama regions between 29 December 20211 and the end of October 2022. The cases were confirmed by real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

The last four cases presented with cough, fever and shortness of breath and either consumed raw camel milk or were around dromedary camels in the two weeks prior to the onset of symptoms. The patients fell within a wide age range, ranging from 23 to 74 years. No secondary infections were detected among those in contact with the patients, and the Ministry of Agriculture examined camels and isolated camels that tested positive for the coronavirus.

The first outbreak of MERS was in 2012, and since then, the disease has been reported in 27 countries, with a total of 2,600 cases and 935 associated deaths. The largest number of deaths (854) was reported from Saudi Arabia, and the disease occurred mainly in countries located in the Arabian Peninsula. Outside the Middle East, the Republic of Korea reported the largest outbreak with 185 cases, but the source of that outbreak has been traced to an individual who had traveled to the Middle East.

WHO risk assessment and advice

The World Health Organization stated that the four additional cases do not change the overall risk assessment, but that more cases can be expected from areas where aesthetics have been found to carry the coronavirus. In addition, cases of this disease can be expected from areas outside the Middle East as the virus is transmitted by travelers from the Middle East who were exposed to the virus via infected contacts or camel products, such as raw milk.

Furthermore, mitigation measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and reduced movement that were imposed during the recent coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic appear to have reduced the number of reported coronavirus infections, possibly due to a lower rate of transmission. between humans. Human transmission. However, the World Health Organization warns that COVID-19 mitigation measures would not have affected the MERS-CoV circulating among dromedary camels, and the risk of zoonotic transmission remains high.

The World Health Organization advised health care workers to practice precautionary measures while providing care to all patients, especially those with possible or confirmed infection with the Coronavirus, to prevent transmission of the virus through droplets or aerosols. Moreover, early detection, quarantine and follow-up of MERS-CoV cases with appropriate prevention and control measures can limit human-to-human transmission of the virus.

Individuals with comorbidities were advised to avoid areas such as markets, farms, and slaughterhouses where they could come into contact with camels. Moreover, it is not recommended to eat raw camel products such as milk and undercooked meat. Hygiene measures such as diligent hand washing after touching animals are recommended.


To sum it up, the World Health Organization reported four recent cases of MERS from Saudi Arabia. All four patients showed non-acute symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath, and cough. No secondary cases were detected during follow-up.

The World Health Organization has advised that precautionary measures be taken for healthcare workers involved in patient care to reduce the risk of human-to-human transmission. Furthermore, individuals with underlying conditions that make them susceptible to infection with the coronavirus are advised to avoid places where they could come into contact with infected dromedary camels. Currently, the World Health Organization has not recommended any travel or trade restrictions.

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