However, during the Hajj it was hard to avoid seeing Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)-related headlines like...
and my particular favourite...
...at all that is. None. Not even bad influenza-like illnesses. No coughs or colds among 2,000,000 people gathered together; 1,300,000 having at some level, shared transportation into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)?
That second quote makes me realise just how important it was for the KSA ministry of health to control this aspect of the Hajj's message; no MERS-CoV disease here. So important, that the message was, to say the least, a little heavy handed.
But now, coinciding with the Hajj ending, we see MERS-CoV detections popping up (3 in 3-days). It's very hard to take seriously the MERS-message. Rest assured we're told, those cases are not at all linked to the Hajj - no travel to that region (now so specific that we are told there is no travel outside of Riaydh) in the previous 14-days. Ironic how that longer incubation period is useful in these happy reports, but not remembered in others, such as when the press note:
|Click to enlarge. This graph is from September - highlights a similar case|
reporting lull around umrah which then climbed rapidly and steadily
Maybe we'll see no new cases among any of the pilgrims. Cool. I doubt that. We have seen 7-day or more breaks in reporting of new MERS-cases before, so this past week is not "out of character". Time will tell, especially from now on for a week or so. Watch that curve closely.
I still wish we could lay off the "everything is fine here right now" message, and instead tell us what's happening to find the host or what testing is being done among those who are not severely ill (take a look at China and H7N9 - include MERS-CoV in your regular respiratory virus testing panel for a little while and see what comes of it). That would be treating us a little less like we are so easily distracted by shiny baubles.