A man in Athens, Greece was recently admitted to intensive care at a local hospital and diagnosed with the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, according to local health officials and the World Health Organization. The 69-year-old patient had recently traveled back to his home country from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he currently resides. This is the first known case of MERS in Greece.
Kathimerini, a newspaper in Athens, say health officials determined the man came into contact with 73 people from the time he boarded the plane to when he was admitted and isolated at the hospital. "Two of the 73 people exposed to the victim -- his wife and the taxi driver who collected him from Athens International Airport last Thursday -- have already undergone laboratory tests and tested negative for the virus," the paper reports.
According to WHO, the patient visited a hospital in Saudi Arabia before embarking on his flight. At that medical facility he presented with symptoms that included fever and diarrhea, and was misdiagnosed with typhoid fever.
Earlier this morning, Reuters also reported health officials in Saudi Arabia had confirmed 11 new cases of MER, including a first in Mecca. Last week, WHO received confirmation for 10 cases of MERS, all which were detected in Abu Dhabi among health care workers who had recently come in contact with patients diagnosed with virus.
Over the last several years, the virus has maintained a small but alarming presence in this region of the world, primarily in the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. A few patients have also been diagnosed with MERS in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Tunisia and the U.K. Just as this newest case in Greece, health officials traced the incidences in Europe to travel from the Middle East.
Since September 2012, WHO has been informed of a total of 238 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS, including 92 deaths throughout the world. A coronavirus is a respiratory infection in the same family of the common cold and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). The latter killed 800 people during a 2003 pandemic.
Experts suggest MERS has emerged from human contact with bats, while others report camels may be responsible for spreading the virus. Symptoms of MERS include fever, cough, shortness of breath, as well as gastrointestinal distress.