You of course remember Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that erupted in 2003 changing how many of us viewed the mobility of diseases and the global economy??? Something interesting (and mysterious) is happening in Saudi Arabia… a new threat has emerged known as novel coronavirus or nCoV-EMC. The virus was first detected in mid-2012 and is a cousin of SARS, which triggered a scare 10 years ago when it erupted in East Asia, leaping to humans from animal hosts.
Sixteen people have now died from 24 cases detected in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Germany and Britain. Riyadh has accounted for most of the deaths, with 11 people, including the five latest fatalities. In a statement cited by the Saudi SPA agency late on Wednesday, the ministry said that all the deaths occurred in the Ahsaa province in the oil-rich eastern region of the kingdom, according to the AFP news agency.
The health ministry said it was taking “all precautionary measures for persons who have been in contact with the infected people … and has taken samples from them to examine if they are infected”. However, the ministry gave no figures for how many people have been examined to see if they have the lethal disease.
Coronaviruses cause most common colds and pneumonia, but are also to blame for unusual conditions such as SARS that killed more than 800 people when it flew (literally!) out of China in 2003. The new virus is different from SARS, in that it causes rapid kidney failure.
The strain is shrouded in mystery, and the World Health Organization does not yet know how it is transmitted or how widespread it is. This nCoV is genetically closely related to a bat coronavirus. The actual route of transmission to humans has not yet been definitively defined. Contact with farm animals has been noted in a number of the cases.
The breakdown of cases (and deaths) by country is as follows:
- Saudi Arabia: 16 (11 deaths)
- Jordan: 2 (2 deaths)
- UK: 4 (one patient from Qatar — under treatment, 3 patients from UK one with history of travel to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan prior to illness; one recovered, 2 deaths)
- Germany: 2 (one patient from Qatar — discharged, one patient from the UAE — one death).
This is one worth watching…the answer to the mystery alone will be worth it!