MERS cases climb in Saudi Arabia

WHO reported two additional laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, coronavirus in Saudi Arabia.

To date, there have been 153 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS, including 64 deaths. Since Oct. 31, WHO has reported eight additional cases of infection, including one in Oman, the first in that country.

The newest cases include a 72-year-old man from Riyadh who had pre-existing medical conditions. The patient became sick Oct. 23 and was hospitalized Oct. 31. The second patient, aged 43 years, is from Jeddah. He became sick Oct. 27 and was hospitalized Nov. 3.

According to WHO, respiratory disease is the primary symptom of MERS infection, although diarrhea is commonly reported in patients. Severe complications associated with the illness include renal failure and acute respiratory distress syndrome with shock. WHO warns that patients infected with MERS may present with atypical symptoms.

"Health care facilities are reminded of the importance of systematic implementation of infection prevention and control," WHO stated in a press release. "Health care facilities that provide care for patients suspected or confirmed with [MERS] infection should take appropriate measures to decrease the risk of transmission of the virus to other patients, health care workers and visitors."