Qatar’s National Contact Point for IHR this week reported two confirmed cases of the respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the Middle East from late March to early April, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Both cases had frequent close contact with dromedaries and consumed their raw milk in the 14 days before the onset of symptoms. One of the cases died.
The WHO provided the following details on the cases:
The first case was a 50-year-old man who worked and lived on a camel farm in Al Shaniya Doha. On March 16, the case presented to the Hamad Medical Corporations emergency department in Doha with a history of a week’s productive cough, high-grade fever and shortness of breath. The patient was admitted to the infirmary on March 17 and transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on March 18 due to deterioration in health. On March 19, a nasopharyngeal swab collected at Hamad Medical Corporation Virology Laboratory tested positive for MERS-CoV by reverse transcription polymeric cercarase chain reaction (RT-PCR) (upE and Orf1a genes). The patient has no comorbidities and reported frequent close contact with dromedaries and consumption of their raw milk in the 14 days prior to symptom onset. No recent travel history has been reported for the case or any of the case’s contacts. None of the four identified contacts reported any symptoms of the disease and all tested negative for MERS-CoV. At the time of writing this report, no further information on the medical status of the case is available.
The second case was an 85-year-old dromedary-camel owner living in Doha. On March 18, the patient presented to the emergency department of Hamad Medical Corporation with a history of productive cough for one week, high grade fever, and shortness of breath, and was admitted to the medical department on the same day, where the clinic performed the patient’s condition deteriorated. On March 19, a nasopharyngeal swab was taken at Hamad Medical Corporation’s virology laboratory and tested positive for MERS-CoV by RT-PCR (upE and ORF1a genes). On March 22, the patient was intubated and transferred to the intensive care unit, where he died on April 14. The patient had comorbidities including diabetes mellitus, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia. The epidemiological investigation revealed that 14 days prior to hospital admission, the patient had traveled to Saudi Arabia on his camel, where he was visiting other dromedary-camel owners. The case also reported frequent contact with dromedary camels, as well as consumption of raw milk from dromedary camels in Saudi Arabia.
The case was first presented at a health center while he was in Saudi Arabia, with symptoms including vomiting, loss of appetite, fever and chills. He was subsequently diagnosed with an acute urinary tract infection. Medical staff at the health center in Saudi Arabia referred him to a hospital, but he decided to return to Qatar immediately. Investigation of 12 household contacts and healthcare workers has been completed and all have tested negative for MERS-CoV. The IHR-NFP of Saudi Arabia has also been notified.
Prior to these notifications, the last MERS-CoV infection reported from Qatar was in February 2020. Since 2012, Qatar has reported a total of 28 human MERS-CoV cases and 7 deaths, including the two newly reported cases.