MERS: Deadly Virus from the Middle East Spreading Quickly

Monday, June 24, 2013
By Paul Martin

June 24, 2013

A lethal virus has emerged from the Arabian Peninsula and it’s striking fear in the hearts of public health officials throughout the world.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus materialized out of nowhere last summer, and has since infected at least 60 individuals -mostly in the Middle East. Though this sounds like a relatively small number, apparently 65% of those infected die, and the virus appears to rapidly spread from person to person with minimal contact. World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Margareth Chan recently stated this is an immediate threat to the entire world.

Another Coronavirus

Like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), MERS is novel member of the coronavirus family. These are large RNA viruses consisting of a spike-lined outer membrane (envelope) and an inner armored shell (protein capsid) that houses instructions for the virus. The name comes from the spiked, crown-like appearance of these virions under the electron microscope. We find corona viruses throughout all mammals; they generally impact the upper respiratory tract. Besides SARS and MERS, several tamer members of this group are known to cause flu-like symptoms in humans.

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