There’s lots of news to catch up with regarding the new coronavirus that emerged last summer in the Middle East and has been causing concern to international health authorities all autumn: additional cases, additional deaths, and new lab evidence that is more than a little concerning.
First: The case count has now risen from six to nine. One of those cases, we knew about already; it is the remaining person in the Saudi family cluster announced last month, whose case analysis was pending. But the other two are newly uncovered, and interesting: They are from a group of 11 health care workers and patients who fell ill in Jordan back in April. A correspondent to the mailing list ProMED actually raised a question about this cluster when the first known cases were disclosed. At the time, the cases were ruled to be not caused by coronavirus — but as the new virus had not yet been recognized, the test used was for known coronaviruses. The victims were negative on that test, but positive when a retest on their stored samples, using the new assay, was done recently.
Sadly, all three of these new cases died — so not only has the case count risen, but the fatality count has also, to 5 out of 9. Though we have only a few cases, that is still a case-fatality rate of more than 50 percent. By contrast, the case-fatality rate of SARS, the last novel coronavirus to trouble public health, was less than 10 percent.