MERS Surges Ahead of Hajj in Test to New Health Minister

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health confirmed 49 new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus in the last week as the urgency to keep the forthcoming Hajj period free of the infectious disease rises.

So far, Saudi Arabia has identified 1,147 infections of the virus, including 487 deaths, since the appearance of the disease in the kingdom in 2012.

MERS is surging in Saudi Arabia ahead of the Hajj.

MERS is surging in Saudi Arabia ahead of the Hajj.

There has been at least one new case of MERS every day since Aug. 3, and altogether, 76 new confirmed cases this month, according to National Geographic.

Health Minister Khalid al-Falih, who was appointed to the position this year by King Salman, said on Twitter that the Ministry is working at full capacity to contain the current outbreak of the virus.

Following an outbreak of the MERS virus in South Korea in June, there have been no new incidents of the disease reported there since July. Saudi Arabia, however, has been battling the presence of MERS for three years.

According to Ahmed Al-Omran in the Wall Street Journal, the government is considering new preventative measures to stop the disease’s spread before the Hajj, including considering a ban on the practice of sacrificing camels and sharing their meat with the poor during the pilgrimage.

A World Health Organization official is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia this week to assess the country’s handling of the latest outbreak.