News / Health

Saudi MERS Data Review Reveals Spike in Number of Deaths

A man with mask speaks on his mobile phone in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 29, 2014.
A man with mask speaks on his mobile phone in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 29, 2014.
Reuters
Saudi Arabia announced a jump of nearly 50 percent in deaths from a new virus on Tuesday after re-examining old data that also showed the number of infections since 2012 was a fifth higher than previously reported.

The increase in total confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome [MERS] to 688 from 575, and the rise in deaths from the virus to 282 from 190, came in a review of data ordered by the Health Ministry last month.

The sharp increase in deaths now attributed to MERS, which causes coughing, fever and pneumonia in some, means the mortality rate from the virus in Saudi Arabia is now 41 percent, instead of the 33 percent previously thought.

However, the ministry said that although the total number of historical cases had risen, the rate of infection in the most recent outbreak appeared to be slowing.

Of the total, 53 patients were still being treated, while 353 had recovered, the statement said.

“While the review has resulted in higher total number of previously unreported cases, we still see a decline in the number of new cases reported over the past few weeks,” Tariq Madani, head of the Health Ministry's scientific advisory board, was quoted as saying in an emailed statement.

New measure

The Health Ministry said it had put in place new measures to make sure better data gathering, reporting and transparency were being observed, including standardization of testing and better guidelines for labeling and storing samples.

On Monday, acting health minister Adel Fakieh announced he had relieved deputy minister Ziad Memish from his post. Fakieh was appointed in April after King Abdullah sacked his predecessor Abdullah al-Rabeeah following a new MERS outbreak.

Saudi authorities, including Memish, had been criticized by some international scientists for their handling of the crisis, including what they saw as a lack of collaboration with specialist laboratories offering to help investigate the outbreak.

“Clearly any backward look will push the total numbers up but that does not signify any change in the virus, only previous under-reporting,” said Ian Jones, a virologist at Britain's University of Reading.

“Infectious disease does not respect country, cultural or religious boundaries, so absolute clarity and the adoption of best practice for isolation and treatment are the most effective means of minimizing numbers until such time as the source and route of infection are identified and avoided,” he added.

The Health Ministry said on Sunday it had set up a new command and control center to tackle MERS and any future public health crisis more effectively.

The new center will work with the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, it said.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs