A 65-year old man has died in northern Germany of a lung disease, following an earlier MERS infection, state health officials have said. The German contracted the virus on vacation in the Middle East in February.
The patient passed away from subsequent complications related to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) on June 6, despite managing to overcome the virus itself, the health ministry in German state of Lower Saxony announced Tuesday.
"We deeply regret the death of this patient, our sympathies go to his relatives, who hoped for recovery and now have to suffer this heavy blow", Lower Saxony Social Minister for Health and Social Issues Cornelia Rundt said.
The 65-year old was infected during his February trip to Abu Dhabi, and is so far the first German whose death can be traced back to the deadly infection believed to have originated in the Middle East.
After overcoming the virus in mid-May, the patient had been released from the isolation ward, and so his death came as a surprise for the doctors, according to the dpa news agency.
Hundreds of lives lost
Some 200 people who were in contact with the patient during his illness have been tested for MERS, with all the results coming back negative, officials have said. This conforms to the current scientific theories saying that MERS only rarely transfers between humans.
Two people were treated for MERS in Germany in 2012 and 2013, with patients coming from Qatar and United Arab Emirates. One of them died.
Historically, most MERS patients have been reported in Saudi Arabia. However, South Korea is currently combating an outbreak of the disease, which killed 19 people since it was first reported in May this year.
MERS currently has a 35-percent mortality rate, according to the World Health Organization, and no vaccine has been developed so far.
Around 1,200 people have been infected with MERS since it first appeared in 2012, with virus claiming some 450 lives.
dj/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)