Newsmax TV & Webwww.newsmax.comFREE - In Google Play
Newsmax TV & Webwww.newsmax.comFREE - On the App Store
Tags: saudi | health | virus | mers

Rising Saudi Death Toll from MERS Fuels Public Fear

Sunday, 27 April 2014 09:30 AM EDT

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The MERS death toll in Saudi Arabia neared 100 this weekend as the authorities scrambled to reassure an increasingly edgy population in the country worst-hit by the infectious coronavirus.

Public fears have been fueled by a rapid rise in the number of fatalities from the respiratory infection, with 31 people dying this month — almost a third of the 94 deaths registered since the virus emerged in April 2012.

A 63-year-old woman, who had also suffered chronic illness, died of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome on Saturday in the western city of Jeddah, and a 78-year-old man died of MERS in Riyadh, the health ministry said Sunday.

It said the total number of cases diagnosed since the virus was first recorded in the kingdom has reached 323, representing the bulk of infections registered globally.

Experts are still struggling to understand MERS, for which there is no known vaccine.

It is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus which erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died.

Riyadh dismissed the health minister earlier this month without saying why, and Labor Minister Adel Fakieh, appointed acting health minister, promised "transparency" over MERS.

Panic over its spread among medical staff in the western city of Jeddah led to the temporary closure of a main hospital's emergency room.

At least four doctors at Jeddah's King Fahd Hospital resigned last week after refusing to treat MERS patients for fear of infection.

Ailing King Abdullah himself traveled to Jeddah on Thursday to reassure the public and demonstrate that "exaggerated and false rumors" about MERS are false, said his son, National Guard Minister Prince Mitab.

Fakieh said on Saturday that three specialized medical centers have been set up in Jeddah, Riyadh and Eastern Province.

But people are still not taking any chances.

"I've decided to keep my six-year-old daughter at home and not send her to school," said Umm Muntaha. "Prevention is better than cure."

Schools remain open despite rumors of possible closures, but many have asked parents to equip their children with face masks and disinfectants.

Pharmaceutical sources have already spoken of a shortage of masks in Jeddah because of rising demand.

"Demand for masks has grown 10 times during the past two weeks," said one pharmacist in Jeddah, who has now run out of stock.

The health ministry has not taken any "additional measures" at airports apart from the "usual preventive measures," a ministry official said.

MERS infections are rising steadily just months ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage to the Muslim sacred sites in Mecca and Medina, which this year comes in September.

Pilgrims continue to visit Mecca for the lesser umra pilgrimage, which can be performed at any time.

The hajj ministry has not yet taken any special MERS-related measures.

"We have not distributed masks and not taken any preventive measures," ministry undersecretary Abdullah Marghalani said.

"We have not received any instructions about the virus and how to immunize umra pilgrims against it."

MERS has not had any impact on the numbers of pilgrims, Marghalani told Al-Eqtisadiah daily, adding that some 3.8 million pilgrims have visited the country this year.

The World Health Organization announced on Wednesday that it had offered to send international experts to Saudi Arabia to investigate "any evolving risk" associated with the transmission pattern of the virus.

A recent study said the virus has been "extraordinarily common" in camels for at least 20 years, and it may have been passed from the animals to humans and now evolved.


© AFP 2023

The MERS death toll in Saudi Arabia neared 100 this weekend as the authorities scrambled to reassure an increasingly edgy population in the country worst-hit by the infectious coronavirus.
saudi, health, virus, mers
Sunday, 27 April 2014 09:30 AM
Newsmax Media, Inc.

Sign up for Newsmax’s Daily Newsletter

Receive breaking news and original analysis - sent right to your inbox.

(Optional for Local News)
Privacy: We never share your email address.
Join the Newsmax Community
Read and Post Comments
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved