MERS-CoV Hits Austria

The WHO reports the first case of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus in Austria while more cases are confirmed in Saudi Arabia.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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MERS coronavirusWIKIMEDIA, NIHThe National International Health Regulations (IHR) Focal Point for Austria this week notified the World Health Organization (WHO) that a Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection had been confirmed in Vienna, Austria, the WHO announced today (October 2). A 29-year-old woman—who last month traveled to Vienna from Afif, Saudi Arabia, where MERS-CoV is thought to have originated and has infected at least 15 people since August, killing four—was confirmed to be infected by the MERS-CoV last week (September 29). This marked the first laboratory-confirmed case of the virus in Austria, which now joins a handful of other countries, including the U.S., that have reported cases of MERS-CoV. Globally, there have been a total of 852 MERS-CoV infections—including more than 300 deaths—reported to the WHO.

The patient diagnosed in Austria had been symptomatic prior to her travel from Saudi Arabia, the agency stated,...

Yesterday (October 1), the WHO released a statement from the seventh meeting of the IHR Emergency Committee regarding MERS-CoV, held virtually last week. The committee reported that there has been no change in the epidemiological situation since its last meeting in June, and that the number of cases is decreasing, with new infections appearing only “sporadically with no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission in communities.”

“[A]lthough transmission in health care settings is still occurring in small clusters, transmission seems generally contained,” the WHO statement read. “[A]ctivities conducted to reduce the international spread of MERS-CoV seem to be effective.” The committee added that the drop in cases could be due to a seasonal effect, however, and warned that “an upsurge” could appear next spring.

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