Saudi Arabia has declared a jump of 50% in fatalities associated with the MERS epidemic which is fast turning into a repeat of the SARS epidemic a few years back. Checking past data, it was revealed that the number of infections after 2012 is a fifth higher than previously thought.

The latest revision in the figures associated with MERS cases and associated fatalities came in a review of data ordered by the Health Ministry last month. The total MERS cases surged from 575 to 688 and the associated fatalities swelled from 190 to 282.

The latest figures meant that the mortality rate from the virus in Saudi Arabia is 41% instead of 33% as perceived before. The Ministry of Health however said that the number of historical cases has risen but the rate of infection in the most recent outbreak is slowing down. Out of the total 53 patients are still being treated in hospitals while 353 have fully recovered.

Tariq Madani, head of the Health Ministry’s scientific advisory board, was quoted as saying in an emailed statement, “While the review has resulted in higher total number of previously unreported cases, we still see a decline in the number of new cases reported over the past few weeks.”

The Health Ministry has thrown in a slew of measures which includes better data gathering, transparency in reporting, standardization of testing and so also improved guidelines for labeling and storing samples.

Heads continue to roll with the acting health minister Adel Fakieh announcing that he has relieved deputy minister Ziad Memish from his post. Fakieh was appointed in April after King Abdullah sacked his predecessor Abdullah al-Rabeeah following a new MERS outbreak.

Saudi authorities, including Memish, had to face searing criticism for their inept handling of the MERS outbreak which included lack of association with specialist laboratories offering to help investigate the outbreak.

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