MERS Kills Again, “Deadlier Than SARS”

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
By Paul Martin
Jun 24, 2013

Another person has died from MERS, which stands for Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, Saudi Arabian officials announced on Saturday, according to Reuters.

This brings the total number of fatalities to 39, with more than 40 additional patients sickened by the SARS-like virus.

Over the weekend, health experts met at the World Health Organization in Cairo to standardize an approach to MERS treatment. They said that countries should enhance surveillance for acute respiratory illness, quickly investigate clusters of pneumonia and report confirmed or probable MERS cases within 24 hours.

Last week, an international team of doctors announced that MERS appears more deadly than SARS, a similar respiratory illness that killed about 800 people worldwide in 2003.

So far, MERS, which causes coughing, fever and pneumonia, hasn’t spread as quickly as SARS, but it appears far more lethal, doctors said, according to the Associated Press.

Compared to SARS’ 8 percent death rate, the fatality rate for MERS in the Saudi outbreak was about 65 percent, though the experts could be missing mild cases that might skew the figures.

While SARS was traced to bats before jumping to humans via civet cats, the source of the MERS virus remains a mystery. It is most closely related to a bat virus though some experts suspect people may be getting sick from animals like camels or goats. Another hypothesis is that infected bats may be contaminating foods like dates, commonly harvested and eaten in Saudi Arabia.

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