SARS-Like MERS Virus Spreads to New Countries

Monday, April 28, 2014
By Paul Martin
April 27, 2014

Cases of the MERS Coronavirus have significantly increased in the last few months, and in recent weeks there have been reports of the virus in new countries including Egypt, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia, leaving officials struggling to figure out why infections have increased.

The MERS Coronavirus, which stands for Middle Eastern Respiratory Coronavirus, was first identified in late 2012 and causes acute respiratory illness, shortness of breath and in severe cases kidney failure. The virus is related to the SARS virus and the common cold.

There have been 350 cases and more than 100 deaths reported worldwide from the virus, although the World Health Organization (WHO) has laboratory-confirmed only 254 cases with 93 deaths. Most of the reported infections have come from Middle East countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

While public health experts have been tracking the disease for nearly two years, in recent weeks health officials are reporting a sharp rise in cases. The WHO reported at least 78 confirmed cases since the beginning of the year, and that diagnosed cases sharply increased in mid-March.

This week the WHO released a report, which said that among newly diagnosed cases up to 75 percent could be human-to-human transmission, since a large number of health workers were infected with the disease. However there is evidence that the reason for the increase could be related to increased testing for the virus and a seasonal increase in the disease rather than virus mutation.

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