Health officials reported two deaths related to infection with Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, coronavirus in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, according to WHO.
Since the outbreak began in September 2012, there have been 180 laboratory-confirmed MERS cases, including 77 deaths.
The latest cases include a 54-year-old man from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with a pre-existing medical condition. He developed respiratory problems Dec. 29 and was hospitalized Jan. 4. The patient was transferred to the ICU and died Jan. 14. He had no history of exposure to animals or another known case. An investigation is ongoing.
The second patient was a 48-year-old man from Jordan with underlying health problems. According to WHO, he became ill Dec. 31, with symptoms including fever, dry cough, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain and vomiting. He was hospitalized Jan. 9 and was placed on a ventilator after his condition worsened. He died Jan. 23. An investigation of the case indicated that the patient had traveled to the United Kingdom between Nov. 12 and Dec. 25 to seek care for his pre-existing condition. The patient had no history of exposure to animals and did not participate in any large gatherings within the last 30 days of becoming ill. The patient also hosted two guests from Kuwait between Dec. 25 and Dec. 31. Jordan health officials are investigating family members, medical staff and health workers who came in contact with the man.
WHO advises health care providers to remain vigilant when treating potential MERS cases.
“When the clinical and epidemiological clues strongly suggest [MERS], the patient should be managed as potentially infected, even if an initial test on a nasopharyngeal swab is negative,” the health organization stated in a news release. “Repeat testing should be done when the initial testing is negative, preferably on specimens from the lower respiratory tract.”