Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Update on Novel Coronavirus in the Middle East

Arabian peninsula (wikipedia.org)
Here is the WHO update on the new coronavirus that was recently discovered in the Arabian peninsula. What is concerning is that this novel coronavirus, known for now as "hCoV-EMC," is (distantly) related to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus that caused a worldwide outbreak in 2003 with 8,098 cases and 774 deaths. With the hCoV-EMC virus all patients have been severely ill with acute respiratory disease; there have been 9 confirmed cases with 5 deaths as of November 30th.

The earliest reports of hCoV-EMC infection came from 2 retrospectively identified cases in Jordan in April of 2012. Cases have also been identified in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Across the 9 confirmed cases there have been two "clusters" of infections, raising concern about human-to-human transmission or a common source of exposure.
SARS coronavirus (cdc.gov)

At this point we do not know how this virus is transmitted or what its natural reservoir is. Unlike the SARS virus, it does not appear to easily transmit between people.

We do know that patients with hCoV-EMC present with severe respiratory disease and the virus has been associated with high mortality. Vigilant surveillance of patients presenting with acute respiratory disease and unexplained pneumonias is needed, especially patients in (and with recent travel to) the Middle East.

SARS coronavirus (cdc.gov)
This infection is another reminder that new infectious diseases will continue to "emerge," and the medical community needs to be ever vigilant in identifying these early.

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