Background: A marked increase in the number of cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection occurred in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in early 2014. We evaluated patients with MERS-CoV infection in Jeddah to explore reasons for this increase and to assess the epidemiologic and clinical features of this disease.
Methods: We identified all cases of laboratory-confirmed MERS-CoV infection in Jeddah that were reported to the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health from January 1 through May 16, 2014. We conducted telephone interviews with symptomatic patients who were not health care personnel, and we reviewed hospital records. We identified patients who were reported as being asymptomatic and interviewed them regarding a history of symptoms in the month before testing. Descriptive analyses were performed.
Results: Of 255 patients with laboratory-confirmed MERS-CoV infection, 93 died (case fatality rate, 36.5%). The median age of all patients was 45 years (interquartile range, 30 to 59), and 174 patients (68.2%) were male. A total of 64 patients (25.1%) were reported to be asymptomatic. Of the 191 symptomatic patients, 40 (20.9%) were health care personnel. Among the 151 symptomatic patients who were not health care personnel, 112 (74.2%) had data that could be assessed, and 109 (97.3%) of these patients had had contact with a health care facility, a person with a confirmed case of MERS-CoV infection, or someone with severe respiratory illness in the 14 days before the onset of illness. The remaining 3 patients (2.7%) reported no such contacts. Of the 64 patients who had been reported as asymptomatic, 33 (52%) were interviewed, and 26 of these 33 (79%) reported at least one symptom that was consistent with a viral respiratory illness.
Conclusions: The majority of patients in the Jeddah MERS-CoV outbreak had contact with a health care facility, other patients, or both. This highlights the role of health care-associated transmission. (Supported by the Ministry of Health, Saudi Arabia, and by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.).