An outbreak of a deadly respiratory illness is gathering pace in Saudi Arabia, with the country reporting more than 50 cases since the beginning of the year.
The latest figures from the Saudi Ministry of Health show 19 new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) occurring in three locations in the country. There have been 29 cases of the disease in the Wadi ad-Dawasir area of the country. The World Health Organization has also reported five cases of the disease in Oman.
MERS is a relatively new disease and was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012 – since then there have been 2,298 cases and 811 deaths. The outbreak exploded in 2014 when there were 662 cases worldwide.
There were just 142 cases in the whole of 2018 – including a case in the UK last summer in a visitor from Saudi Arabia – so this latest outbreak represents a significant increase in the number of cases.
MERS is a viral respiratory illness and typical symptoms include fever, cough and/or shortness of breath but more serious symptoms include respiratory failure. The mortality rate is around 35 per cent although this may be an overestimate as people with mild symptoms may not be identified.