Jeddah and Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Fears surrounding the MERS outbreak in Saudi Arabia are on the rise following the announcement earlier this week that the death toll has reached 71, while Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) cases have also been reported in the UAE and other Gulf states.
The Saudi Health Ministry reported that a Jeddah resident had died from MERS brought on by the coronavirus on Wednesday, while five others had been infected, bringing the total number of infections in the Kingdom to 205. The UAE also confirmed three new MERS cases earlier this week.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat the head of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Middle Eastern East Regional office, Dr. Alaa-Eddin Alwan, said there is “comprehensive coordination with all Gulf states and regular communications regarding the latest MERS cases.”
Alwan said the WHO is coordinating with Gulf authorities regarding the outbreak. “There is great interest on the part of WHO to learn about the status of the virus and registered cases worldwide in order to arrive at urgent solutions to help reduce infection and control the virus.”
The WHO is set to hold a meeting with Saudi authorities to discuss the virus in Riyadh in late April.
Fears have been mounting in Saudi Arabia regarding the MERS outbreak, with Arab News reporting that the virus has a 60 percent mortality rate. The disease was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The relatively high fatality rate of the virus is due to patients often being elderly or suffering underlying medical conditions.
Local media reported that the Saudi Ministry of Health has launched an SMS campaign to dispel public misconceptions about the coronavirus. The Health Ministry has also established a free telephone hotline, in addition to a Twitter campaign, to put public fears to rest.
The virus made the jump to the Far East this week, with MERS cases being reported in Malaysia and the Philippines for the first time, raising fears of the virus spreading to other regions of the world.