ABU DHABI // A strain of the Sars-like virus that killed an Emirati man has origins in the UAE and Qatar, a report has revealed.
The 73-year-old Abu Dhabi man died in a hospital in Germany on March 26, 11 days after developing flu-like symptoms, including a fever and a cough, which turned out to be the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or Mers-CoV.
A report by experts published in the Lancet medical journal has now said the man died from a strain similar to that of a Qatari man, who was treated in Germany six months before the Abu Dhabi man.
Stool samples from the Qatari victim had shown he had a “clustering of viruses derived from Qatar and the UAE”, the report said.
Mers-CoV has so far killed 38 people worldwide, most of those in Saudi Arabia, but the Health Authority Abu Dhabi has urged the public to remain calm.
One consultant and head of infectious disease at Mafraq Hospital, Dr Asim Malik, said: “Ever since we first got the reports of the first few cases in Saudi, we have worked in close collaboration with Health Authority Abu Dhabi and Seha.
“It’s not just Mafraq Hospital but all Seha healthcare facilities, namely Sheikh Khalifa Medical City and Tawam.
“We met and developed … guidelines and protocols that were put in place in preparation and anticipation of suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus.”
The Abu Dhabi victim was first admitted to Mafraq Hospital with suspected pneumonia before he was transferred from the intensive care unit by air ambulance to the Klinikum Schwabing hospital in Munich on March 19.
He died of septic shock seven days later after his kidneys failed and he did not respond to intensive antibiotics and dialysis treatment.
Relatives of the man said he owned camels and had come into contact with a diseased animal shortly before becoming ill. No animal samples could be retrieved, the report said.
Research showed the man had an underlying health condition, having been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer that affects production of normal blood cells, in 2008.
The report suggested the man had a cancer relapse in November last year and may have had a weaker immune system.
He became the 11th person to die from the virus, which has now claimed 38 lives worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The report was carried out by doctors and disease experts in research centres in Germany, the US and the UK.
The results of their research paper came as the Saudi Ministry of Health announced an additional four confirmed cases of the virus on Saturday.
The first case is a 43-year-old woman in the country’s eastern region who has recovered. The other three cases are female healthcare workers, aged 29, 39 and 45, who cared for two previously confirmed Mers-CoV cases.
Research has shown that Mers-CoV spreads easily between people, with hospitals, in particular, areas of proliferation.
Worldwide, 68 people have been confirmed as having contracted the virus since September, WHO said.
One case was that of a 65-year-old French tourist, who was diagnosed after returning home from Dubai. He died of multiple organ failure on May 28.
A man who shared a hospital room with him for three days was later found to have the virus, a separate report into those two cases said.
In addition to the UAE, Qatar and Saudi, cases have also been identified in Jordan, Tunisia, the UK, Germany, France and Italy.
The outbreak of the virus has recently prompted Margaret Chan, the director general of WHO, to call it her “greatest concern”.
“The novel coronavirus is not a problem that any single affected country can keep to itself or manage all by itself,” she said in a speech last month at the 66th World Health Assembly.
“We understand too little about this virus when viewed against the magnitude of its potential threat.”
More than 100 health experts gathered in Cairo, Egypt, at the weekend to discuss what urgent actions are needed at a national level to stem the growing outbreak of Mers-CoV, which belongs to the same family of viruses as the one responsible for Sars, which ultimately triggered a global outbreak that killed about 800 people.
WHO yesterday said it is continuing to monitor the situation.