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Saudi Arabia Has Revised its MERS Count, More Deaths Revealed

Jun 04, 2014 12:54 PM EDT
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Following an investigation of potential Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS) cases since 2012, the Saudi Arabian Health Ministry has revised its number of total cases. As of May 2, the total number of MERS-Cov related deaths seen in Saudi Arabia has increased to 282.

"The main objective of that review was to ensure a more complete and accurate understanding of the MERS-CoV outbreak in the Kingdom," the Ministry said in an official statement.

The statement, issued Tuesday, details how the total number of known MERS cases in Saudi Arabia - the argued source of the deadly virus - has been raised from 575 to 688. This statistic included 282 fatalities, 353 full recoveries, and 53 infected still receiving treatment.

Dr. Tariq Madani, Head of the Scientific Advisory Board within the Ministry's Command and Control Center, explained that the revision of statistics will help establish a better understanding of the threat that the deadly respiratory infection poses to Saudi Arabian citizens, as well as the world.

For instance, past investigations of the MERS outbreak in Saudi Arabia conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that the virus killed nearly a third of those infected. These latest statistics update that assessment, revealing that the infection proved much more deadly, especially in earlier cases that were not adequately identified in time.

The same WHO investigation revealed that the MERS virus had not actually become more contagious  since it was first discovered in Saudi Arabia in 2012, boasting a relatively low infection rate. Instead, the prevalence of the virus was exacerbated by breaches in infection and control measures.

According to Madani, this latest investigation will help the Health Ministry correct such problems.

"This review has informed the Ministry's policies, and it took stringent action to combat MER-CoV, announcing the new Command and Control Center to increase the level of preparedness for future public health challenges, issuing infection control protocols to contain the spread of the virus, and directly engaging the public with an awareness campaign," he said.

Saudi labs have also been equipped with standard MERS testing kits, to more readily identify and treat the virus. According to the Health Ministry, it is their hope that these efforts will help mitigate the virus's continued spread.

Thankfully, even with the new statistics, the rate at which MERS cases have turned up has continued to drop in the past few weeks, indicating that the worst of the viral season is over, according to the report.

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