Saudis find more coronavirus cases

Authorities in Saudi Arabia 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.

Authorities in Saudi Arabia 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, reported Thursday, bring the total to date of that al Hofuf cluster to 15 infections. Seven have been fatal.

One of the newly reported cases became ill on April 6, which at this point is the earliest onset date known for any of the infections in this cluster.

Though it is still not clear if these cases are all part of a chain of person-to-person spread, it does suggest the new virus has been infecting people in al Hofuf for more than a month.

The new cases were reported publicly by the country’s deputy health minister, Dr. Ziad Memish, who posted a short update on the outbreak on the Internet-based disease surveillance system, ProMED.

Memish said the two people were not newly infected but rather cases that were detected by going back through records and tracing people who had been in contact with known cases.

But his ProMED report did not say if these people are related to, or had contact with, any of the other cases in the cluster.

And while the official Saudi line has been that all the cases have been linked to a dialysis clinic at al-Moosa Hospital, Memish’s post made no mention of these cases having had care at that facility.

He did, however, appear to suggest that there is no ongoing spread of the virus at this time, noting that it has been more than a week since the most recent case fell ill.

“Actions implemented and fully applied by 1 May 2013 have been effective to date in preventing new cases related to this cluster from emerging,” Memish wrote in his ProMED posting.

But infectious diseases expert Michael Osterholm said it is too soon to conclude transmission in al Hofuf has been stopped.

“This cluster could still be continuing. I don’t think we know,” said Osterholm, who is the director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

“It would not surprise me in the next seven to 10 days if we find more cases have occurred in that area that have not previously been reported,” he said, adding the ongoing investigation there may uncover more retrospective cases.

“I think the more of the onion we peel back here, the more difficult it gets.”

The new cases are both men and are both alive. Both men were reported to have had pre-existing medical conditions.

One, a 48-year old, started to have symptoms on April 29. He is in stable condition in hospital. The other is a 58-year-old man who had symptom onset on April 6.

Memish said he has recovered completely and was discharged from hospital on May 3.

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 feature of the outbreak raises red flags for infectious disease experts because health-care workers and hospital patients are often the sentinel cases when a new pathogen begins to spread.

Such was the case during the SARS outbreak in 2003.

The SARS virus spread poorly in the community but took off in hospitals among unprotected health-care workers and patients.

This virus is from the same family as the SARS coronavirus.

Over the past 13 months, 33 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Britain and, earlier this week, 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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Heather Buelow, owner of Aerial Edge Studio in Blackfalds, says she has spent all of her savings to keep the studio going through government-mandated shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Contributed photo)
Either open in-person or close permanently: Central Alberta yoga studio defying rules

A central Alberta woman is allowing clients back into her traditional and… Continue reading

(MaxPixel)
Sandra Schmirler Foundation donates $10,000 to Red Deer hospital

Donation will go towards electronic fetal heart monitoring project

A sustainability audit for Westerner Park suggested 33 changes, including more city involvement. (Advocate file photo)
Westerner Park expands volunteer program

As Westerner Park refocuses the organization, they are reigniting their emphasis on… Continue reading

Ukraine’s leader requests a talk with Putin, gets no answer

Ukraine’s leader requests a talk with Putin, gets no answer

Madelyn Boyko poses along with a number of the bath bombs she makes with her mom, Jessica Boyko. Madelyn says she enjoys making the bath bombs with her mom as it is a special time for just the two of them. (Photo Submitted)
5-year-old Sylvan Lake girl selling bath bombs in support of younger brother

Madelyn Boyko is selling bath bombs for CdLS research in honour of her younger brother

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on December 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Patrick Doyle
New regulator to stop sexual exploitation of children online: public safety minister

OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the government will introduce… Continue reading

Gordon Greenwood Elementary Grade 7 students were assigned to write about climate change. The Langley Advance Times is pleased to present a selection of their writings. (Sasha/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

OTTAWA — A new report shows Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he will vote against a… Continue reading

Eugene Kwon of Gratia Bakery and Cafe says the business will be relying on take out orders and a small patio. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

OTTAWA — A group representing thousands of the country’s small businesses says… Continue reading

Ron Howard is photographed at the "Inferno" film premiere on Oct. 25, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Buckner/Rex Shutterstock/Zuma Press/TNS)
Brothers Ron and Clint Howard have memoir coming in October

NEW YORK — Filmmaker-actor Ron Howard and actor Clint Howard, brothers, former… Continue reading

FILE - In this Saturday, March 27, 2021 file photo, Buffalo Sabres’ Taylor Hall plays against the Boston Bruins during the second period of an NHL hockey game, in Boston. The Buffalo Sabres could trade 2018 MVP Hall, who signed for just this season and is a pending free agent. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
Boston Bruins acquire Taylor Hall to kick off NHL trade deadline day

Trade deadline day in the NHL has started with the Boston Bruins… Continue reading

Most Read