A 66-year-old Tunisian man has died from the new coronavirus following a visit to Saudi Arabia and two of his adult children were infected with it.
His sons were treated and have since recovered but the rest of the family remains under medical observation. The cases are the first for Tunisia and indicate that the virus is slowly trickling out of Saudi Arabia, where more than 30 coronavirus cases have been reported. There have been at least 20 deaths worldwide out of 40 cases.
The Tunisian fatality, a diabetic, had been complaining of breathing problems since his return from the trip and died in a hospital in the coastal Tunisian city of Monastir. Many previous coronavirus patients have had underlying medical problems, which WHO said might have made them more susceptible to getting infected. There is no specific treatment for the disease, but the agency has issued guidelines for how doctors might treat patients, like providing oxygen therapy and avoiding strong steroids.
The new virus has been compared to SARS, an unusual pneumonia that surfaced in China then erupted into a deadly international outbreak in early 2003. Ultimately, more than 8,000 SARS cases were reported in about 30 countries and over 770 people died from it.
The new coronavirus is most closely related to a bat virus and is part of a family of viruses that cause the common cold and SARS. Experts suspect it may be jumping directly from animals like camels or goats into people, but there isn’t enough proof to narrow down a species yet. The virus can cause acute respiratory disease, kidney failure and heart problems.
The Saudi Arabian cities of Mecca and Medina will receive millions of pilgrims from around the world during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which falls in July and August this year.
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona virus (MERS-CoV), which was first reported in Saudi Arabia and is now slowly spreading to other countries like the U.K., Jordan, France, and Tunisia.
Strange enough, despite the fact that Kerala has a lot of women working in the health sector in the Middle East and that there is good traffic between the Middle East and Kerala, active surveillance for the illness has not yet been launched.
The infection is still being reported in small clusters, even outside Middle East countries and hence no screening at airports has been advised by WHO. Yet, given Kerala’s widespread links to the Middle East and the fact that so many Malayalis live in very crowded environs in these countries, it is very much possible that the virus could come into Kerala.
Human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed with many cases being reported among family members and through hospital-acquired (nosocomial) infections. The virus has so far resulted in 40 confirmed cases of severe respiratory disease, including 20 deaths.
The MERS-CoV belongs to the same family as the SARS virus, which had erupted as a major global outbreak in 2003. The novel CoV, however, though more lethal than SARS virus, does not spread from humans as easily as SARS.
Till now, all the confirmed cases of MERS-CoV has had some link to the Middle East – persons who travelled to the destination, their close family members, or health workers who came into contact with confirmed cases in hospitals.