Estimating the Severity and Subclinical Burden of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Infection in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Not all persons infected with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) develop severe symptoms, which likely leads to an underestimation of the number of people infected and an overestimation of the severity. To estimate the number of MERS-CoV infections that have occurred in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we applied a statistical model to a line list describing 721 MERS-CoV infections detected between June 7, 2012, and July 25, 2014. We estimated that 1,528 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1,327, 1,883) MERS-CoV infections occurred in this interval, which is 2.1 (95% CI: 1.8, 2.6) times the number reported. The probability of developing symptoms ranged from 11% (95% CI: 4, 25) in persons under 10 years of age to 88% (95% CI: 72, 97) in those 70 years of age or older. An estimated 22% (95% CI: 18, 25) of those infected with MERS-CoV died. MERS-CoV is deadly, but this work shows that its clinical severity differs markedly between groups and that many cases likely go undiagnosed.