Today the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health (MOH) reported that five more people have been infected with the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). In a one sentence release on their website, the Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH) stated, “Within the framework of the epidemiological surveillance of the novel Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), the Ministry of Health (MOH) has announced that five novel Coronavirus cases have been recorded among citizens in the Eastern Region, ranging in age from 73 to 85 years, but they have all chronic diseases.”
With today’s Saudi announcement, the unofficial global case count has reached 49; the death toll stands at 24, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unofficially, Saudi Arabia has had 37 cases, with 18 deaths.
Where is it coming from?
Last week Saudi Arabia said it would send samples taken from animals possibly infected with a deadly SARS-like virus to the United States for testing in a bid to find the source of disease. In a statement from the Health Minister he said they had “collected large samples from bats and other animals, including camels, sheep and cats.” The source of the infection at this point remains a mystery.
Saudi Arabia counts by far the most cases, with over 35 confirmed infections and 17 fatalities, while cases have also been detected in Jordan, Qatar, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Britain and France.
The virus is a cousin of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus, which triggered a scare 10 years ago when it erupted in east Asia, leaping to humans from animal hosts and eventually killing some 800 people.
Scientists at the Erasmus medical center in Rotterdam have determined that the virus appears to infect the body via a docking point in lung cells, suggesting bats may be a natural reservoir for it. Bats were also pinpointed as a likely natural reservoir for SARS in a 2005 study and are known carriers of the deadly ebolavirus.