When Censorship Spreads Disease

Maryn McKenna in Wired criticizes the Saudi government handling of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) for trying to control information about the spread of the disease:

While we wait to see the full extent of MERS, the one thing the world can do is to relearn the lesson of SARS: Just as diseases will always cross borders, governments will always try to evade blame. That problem can’t be solved with better devices or through a more sophisticated public-health dragnet.

The solution lies in something public health has failed to accomplish despite centuries of trying: persuading governments that transparency needs to trump concerns about their own reputations. Information can outrun our deadly new diseases, but only if it’s allowed to spread.


The MERS Bats

Denise Grady on the search for the virus causing MERS:

As the scientists peered into the darkness, their headlamps revealed an eerie sight. Hundreds of eyes glinted back at them from the walls and ceiling. They had discovered, in a crumbling, long-abandoned village half-buried in sand near a remote town in southwestern Saudi Arabia, a roosting spot for bats.

Five New MERS Cases Confirmed in Eastern Saudi

Saudi Arabia confirmed on Tuesday five new cases of the new MERS coronavirus. The Ministry of Health said in a brief statement published on its website that the five cases were reported in the Eastern Province in patients aged between 73 to 85. All of them have chronic diseases, the ministry said. This raises to 35 the number of confirmed cases in Saudi Arabia, the highest number by far in the world. Other cases have also been detected in Jordan, Qatar, Tunisia, UAE, Germany, Britain and France.

MERS Coronavirus Claims Another Saudi Victim

The octogenarian woman in Al-Ahsa who had contracted the SARS-like coronavirus has died, raising the death toll in the Kingdom to 18 and the world total at 23, a Ministry of Health statement said on Sunday.

“An 81-year-old woman who was suffering from kidney failure as well as other chronic illnesses has died” in the eastern Al-Ahsa region after contracting the virus, the statement said.

Saudi Confirms Another Death from MERS Coronavirus

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health confirmed on Wednesday that a foreign man has died by the new MERS coronavirus. The man was hospitalized few days ago in the central region of Qassim due to a severe reparatory infection and died on Tuesday, the Ministry said in a brief statement published on its website. Al-Riyadh daily cited a statement by the Health Affairs Directorate in Qassim saying the man was 63 years old and suffered chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes. A spokesman told the newspaper that a team of experts will visit Qassim to ensure that healthcare providers have not contracted the virus which has killed 17 people in Saudi Arabia so far.

Coronavirus Kills Another Saudi

Saudi Arabia confirmed on Monday the death of one of the patients infected by the novel coronavirus, which some scientific journals now refer to as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, or MERS. The Ministry of Health published a short statement on its website saying the patient had chronic heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and renal failure. This raises to 16 the number of deaths by the virus. MOH also said that one of the healthcare professionals who contracted the virus is improving and has left the hospital. No new cases has been recorded since the last one that was announced on Friday.