Fears new deadly virus in Middle East could go global as millions prepare to visit the region for annual pilgrimage
Health officials in Saudi Arabia prepare for Hajj pilgrimage this autumn
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome currently causing concern in area
Deadly new virus is believed to be even more dangerous than SARS
Millions from across globe are preparing to visit region for pilgrimage
By JAMES RUSH
29 June 2013
Fears over a global outbreak of a deadly new virus which has emerged in the Middle East are growing as millions of religious pilgrims prepare to visit the region.
Health officials in Saudi Arabia are preparing for the annual Hajj pilgrimage this autumn, which sees millions of Muslims visit the country each year.
But concerns in the area have been increasing over the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which is thought to be more dangerous than SARS, after more than 60 cases were reported in the last year by the World Health Organisation.
Officials in Saudi Arabia, where many of the MERS victims have been, are now doing all they can to track down the virus and prevent it from spreading during the pilgrimage, according to Foreign Policy.
There have been 77 laboratory-confirmed infections as of June 26. A total of 62 of these cases have been in Saudi Arabia, where 34 of the victims have died.
Last year approximately 6 million pilgrims travelled through the country as part of the event, which saw millions circle the Kaaba, in Mecca, alone.
The disease, which can spread easily between people, has been compared to SARS, which killed 800 people during an outbreak in 2003. Some experts have noted resemblances between the two as both spread easily between hospitals.
Symptoms are also similar with a fever and cough that develops into pneumonia.
But, doctors note that the fatality rate is higher. Eight per cent of SARS patients died, while 65 per cent of MERS cases are believed to have been fatal.
Doctors have not been able to pinpoint exactly how the illness is spread in every case, as some appeared to catch it when they had not been in contact with an infected person.