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Coronavirus cases rise to 30

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    Posted: May 06 2013 at 3:57am
Repost by Justintime:

Saudis coronavirus cases grows by 3; 13 cases, 7 deaths in health-care cluster

Helen Branswell / The Canadian Press
May 5, 2013

The coronavirus outbreak in eastern Saudi Arabia has gotten bigger.

The country's deputy health minister says an additional three infections have been confirmed, bringing the cluster to 13 cases.

Of those cases, seven have died.

Dr. Ziad Memish confirmed the three additional cases in an email to The Canadian Press and says the cases are linked through a connection to health care, but does not elaborate on what that link is.

Experts have been on the lookout for infections spreading in hospitals because health-care facilities played a key role in the SARS outbreak.

This new coronavirus is a member of the same virus family as SARS and causes a similarly severe disease.

The start of this outbreak was first reported to the World Health Organization late last Wednesday. At that time, there were seven cases, five of whom had already died.

On Friday, Saudi authorities informed the WHO that three more cases had been confirmed. One was a family member of one of the original seven.

Cases within a family or household, or among people who share a workplace or some other common gathering point would raise alarm bells as it this type of infection pattern could be a signal that the virus is acquiring the ability to spread from person-to-person.

There have been reports that this cluster of cases, in a city called al-Ahsa, are all linked in some way to a hospital there. A report Memish submitted on Friday to the Internet-based disease alert system, ProMED-Mail, suggested all the patients had underlying illnesses.

In fact, the first seven cases were all listed as having "multiple comorbidities.'' A comorbidity is medical-speak for a disease or condition.

The new cases bring the global confirmed count to 30 cases. Of those, 18 people have died.

The first known cases of the new infection occurred in April 2012, in a cluster of 11 illnesses in a hospital in Jordan. At the time, a reason for the outbreak wasn't found.

But months later stored samples from two of those cases were tested and found to be positive for the new virus. The other nine people are suspected to have been infected, but it's not clear at this point if they will ever be confirmed.

The coronavirus was first spotted when a Saudi man died of a mysterious and severe pneumonia last June. When the cause of his illness could not be detected, an infectious diseases specialist sent a sample to Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, where virologists determined a new coronavirus was behind the infection.

To date, Saudi Arabia has recorded the highest number of cases. Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Britain have also had cases. Britain has seen the first confirmed cases of limited person-to-person spread, in a family where three members fell ill and two died. It is believed, though, that the first case in that cluster contracted the virus while travelling in Saudi Arabia.

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