Saudi Arabian coronavirus cluster grows to 15
Cases detected by going back through records and tracing people who had been in contact with known cases
Authorities in Saudi Arabia say they have found two more people who were infected with the new coronavirus in a large cluster of cases in the eastern portion of the country.
The two new cases bring the total to date of that cluster to 15 infections, seven of which were fatal.
One of the newly detected cases became ill on April 6, meaning the new virus has been spreading in al Hofuf for more than one month.
The country's deputy health minister reported the cases today via the internet-based disease surveillance system, ProMED.
Dr. Ziad Memish says the people are not newly infected, but cases that were detected by going back through records and tracing people who had been in contact with known cases.
Both are still alive and one man has recovered and been released from hospital.
The other started to show symptoms on April 29; he is reportedly in stable condition in hospital.
Memish did not reveal how the two new cases were linked to previously reported infections. But he appeared to suggest that there is no ongoing spread of the virus at this time.
"Actions implemented and fully applied by 1 May 2013 have been effective to date in preventing new cases related to this cluster from emerging," he wrote in his ProMED posting.
The al Hofuf cluster is the largest to date with the new coronavirus and it is linked to one or more health-care facilities.
That raises alarm bells, especially given that this virus is from the same family as the SARS coronavirus. The SARS virus spread poorly in the community, but took off in health-care settings among unprotected health-care workers and hospital patients.
Over the past 13 months, 33 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Britain and France. All cases are linked to the countries on the Arabian Peninsula. Eighteen of the cases have been fatal.
Saudi Arabia has reported the most cases — 25, with 14 fatalities.
The kingdom's officials have been reluctant to share information about the outbreak but recently invited some outside experts to travel to Saudi Arabia to consult on the situation.
Toronto SARS expert Dr. Allison McGeer is among them. The head of infection control at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, she is currently in Saudi Arabia helping with the investigation.