May 29, 2013
Two sobering reports this morning highlight the threat from a SARS-like virus called the “novel coronavirus,” or nCoV which has killed 27 of the approximately 49 infected patients according to press reports, with numbers rising daily, especially in Saudi Arabia.
The first report is that five new cases of nCoV have been recorded in the Eastern Region of Saudi Arabia. Of the worldwide deaths from the virus, 18 have been from the Kingdom. There is no evidence the virus is passed by casual contact. The Ministry of Health stated all the new cases were among senior citizens who had been diagnosed with chronic diseases according to Arab News.
Reports of the virus infecting victims in the Kingdom arose last year and by September the Ministry of Health said the virus, new to science and medicine – had been detected in three patients, two of whom had already died. David Quammen, in a New York Times op-ed noted that the numbers at this point were tiny “by the standards of global pandemics,” but there was one number that was “huge.” He wrote, “The case fatality rate is 55 percent. The thing seems to be almost as lethal as Ebola.” The SARS coronavirus that infected over 8000 people a decade ago had a fatality rate of about 10 percent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The second troubling report is that “The novel coronavirus is a threat to the entire world,” according to WHO Director General Margaret Chan speaking at the 66th World Health Assembly in Geneva on Monday. “The novel coronavirus is not a problem that any single affected country can keep to itself or manage all by itself,” she said, adding:
“We understand too little about this virus when viewed against the magnitude of its potential threat.. ..Any new disease that is emerging faster than our understanding is never under control.. ..We do not know where the virus hides in nature. We do not know how people are getting infected. Until we answer these question, we are empty-handed when it comes to prevention. These are alarm bells. And we must respond.. ..We need more information, and we need it quickly, urgently.”
The Saudi Ministry of Health Web portal has detailed information on the novel coronavirus cases in the Kingdom including sites of infection around the Kingdom; frequently asked questions; health guidelines; awareness videos, media statements and a contact phone number for additional information. [Link here]