May 14, 2013
May 14, 2013 (CIDRAP News) – Two healthcare workers are among six new novel coronavirus (nCoV) cases reported in Saudi Arabia since late yesterday, suggesting that the virus might have spread from infected patients to hospital staff members.
On the heels of the WHO statement came a brief statement from the Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH), saying, "MOH would like to point out that two new confirmed cases of Coronavirus have been detected among health practitioners in the Eastern Region, and they are currently still under the medical observation receiving the proper treatment."
The MOH gave no information about where the patients were working or whether they are now considered part of the hospital cluster, which reports have linked to Al-Moosa General Hospital in Hofuf, Eastern province. Nor did the statement give any other details about the health workers or their condition.
An Agence France-Presse (AFP) story today said the Saudi MOH identified the two sick healthcare workers as nurses.
In related developments, a leading German virologist expressed concern that Saudi Arabia has not been sharing nCoV samples with European laboratories so they can study it, according to a report today from the German news broadcaster Deutsche Welle. The story quoted Christian Drosten, MD, director of the Institute of Virology at the University of Bonn Medical Center.
"We are all really trying to collaborate and provide materials, diagnostic tests and also assistance," Drosten said. "But what we don't really see is feedback in terms of samples for investigation. Because it's what we really need to do. We need to look at the virus—especially if we are concerned that the virus could evolve. The virus could change and optimize itself and spread more efficiently."
Drosten said it was unclear whether the lack of sample sharing is due to political factors or other reasons. "The solution to the whole thing is of course to establish lab capacity there, in the country, but this is a process," he commented.