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Nov 06, 2013

Spain’s health ministry today reported the country’s first Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) case, in a woman who had spent October in Saudi Arabia, a development that raises questions about possible exposure at the recent Hajj pilgrimage.

The woman is a Spanish resident who was born in Morocco and was admitted to a Madrid hospital on Nov 1, where she is in stable condition, according to a health ministry statement posted in Spanish. The virus was confirmed in samples tested at the country’s National Microbiology Center.

Spain’s health ministry said it considers the infection an imported case that doesn’t pose a public health risk to Spain, which is now the fifth European country to report an imported MERS-CoV case, in addition to Britain, France, Germany, and Italy. All of the imported infections occurred in people who had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia or other Middle Eastern countries.

A World Health Organization (WHO) official told the Canadian Press today that the woman with MERS-CoV performed the Hajj pilgrimage, got sick in Saudi Arabia, and flew back to Spain where she was hospitalized and tested. Anthony Mounts, MD, the WHO’s technical lead for MERS-CoV, said it’s not clear yet if the woman took a commercial flight or came back on a charter plane, according to the story.

Spain’s health ministry said it and Madrid health officials are identifying all of the woman’s close contacts, based on national and international procedures.

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