As of 13 May 2014, RIVM and Erasmus MC have diagnosed the MERS coronavirus in two Dutch people. The patients are related and were infected during a joint journey to Saudi Arabia. Both have been hospitalised and are being cared for in strict isolation. Their health status is stable. The man and woman involved shared a hotel room for two weeks and both suffer from underlying conditions that probably made them more susceptible to this virus.
The Municipal Health Service monitors the health status of all fellow travellers, as well as that of those who have been in contact with the patients, and they will be examined as soon as they show any sign of a health problem. It is therefore not certain whether an infection with the MERS-coronavirus will be diagnosed among more patients in the weeks to come. Dutch hospitals are well equipped to provide proper care.
MERS infections can cause severe respiratory symptoms, in particular among people who also suffer from other health issues. Additional potential problems include diarrhoea. Human-to-human transmission of the MERS coronavirus is rare, except in the case of close contact with patients and the unprotected nursing of severely sick people.
In 2012, an outbreak of the new MERS coronavirus (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) occurred in the Middle East. Meanwhile, over 600 patients in the Middle East have been reported to the World Health Organization. In April and May, there was a considerable increase in the number of reports in the Middle East, and by far most reports have come from this region (Saudi Arabia, as well as Qatar, Jordan, Oman, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates in particular). Since last year, cases of an infection with the MERS coronavirus have been determined among a few patients in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Greece, the Philippines, Malaysia, Kuwait, Tunisia, Germany, Egypt and the United States; all of them were travellers who became infected in the Middle East. The fact that patients have been diagnosed in the Netherlands is not unexpected, and this is why since July 2013 the MERS coronavirus has been a notifiable infectious disease.