The emergence of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infections has become a global issue of dire concerns. MERS-CoV infections have been identified in many countries all over the world whereas high level occurrences have been documented in the Middle East and Korea. MERS-CoV is mainly spreading across the geographical region of the Middle East, especially in the Arabian Peninsula, while some imported sporadic cases were reported from the Europe, North America, Africa, and lately Asia. The prevalence of MERS-CoV infections across the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) countries still remains unclear. Therefore, the objective of the current study was to report the prevalence of MERS-CoV in the GCC countries and to also elucidate on its demographics in the Arabian Peninsula. To date, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 1,797 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection since June 2012, involving 687 deaths in 27 different countries worldwide. Within a time span of 4 years from June 2012 to July 2016, we collect samples form MERS-CoV infected individuals from National Guard Hospital, Riyadh, and Ministry of health Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries. Our data comprise a total of 1550 cases (67.1% male and 32.9% female). The age-specific prevalence and distribution of MERS-CoV was as follow: <20 yrs (36 cases: 3.28%), 20–39 yrs (331 cases: 30.15%), 40–59 yrs (314 cases: 28.60%), and the highest-risk elderly group aged 60 yrs (417 cases: 37.98%). The case distribution among GCC countries was as follows: Saudi Arabia (1441 cases: 93%), Kuwait (4 cases: 0.3%), Bahrain (1 case: 0.1%), Oman (8 cases: 0.5%), Qatar (16 cases: 1.0%), and United Arab Emirates (80 cases: 5.2%). Thus, MERS-CoV was found to be more prevalent in Saudi Arabia especially in Riyadh, where 756 cases (52.4%) were the worst hit area of the country identified, followed by the western region Makkah where 298 cases (20.6%) were recorded. This prevalence update indicates that the Arabian Peninsula, particularly Saudi Arabia, is the hardest hit region regarding the emerging MERS-CoV infections worldwide. GCC countries including Saudi Arabia now have the infrastructure in place that allows physicians and scientific community to identify and immediately respond to the potential risks posed by new outbreaks of MERS-CoV infections in the region. Given the continuum of emergence and the large magnitude of the disease in our region, more studies will be required to bolster capabilities for timely detection and effective control and prevention of MERS-CoV in our region.
Aly, M., Elrobh, M., Alzayer, M., Aljuhani, S., & Balkhy, H. (2017). Occurrence of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) across the Gulf Corporation Council countries: Four years update. PLoS ONE, 12(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0183850