MERS Virus Surge Seen in the Middle East

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In 2012, the world was first exposed to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus, better known as MERS. The virus originated in Saudi Arabia, and all evidence suggests that only six Middle Eastern countries have been noted spots of origination for the virus. Despite the limited proximity of origins, however, the worldwide health and scientific communities are constantly monitoring the progression of the sickness, especially due to its close relations to the SARS virus which erupted in Asia in 2003, infecting 8,273 people and killing nine percent of those infected.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) has only confirmed 228 cases of MERS since September 2012, 92 deaths have resulted from infection. This 40 percent fatality rate has the international medical community deeply concerned, as does the recent surge in Middle Eastern countries.

On its Twitter account, the WHO reported that from April 2 to April 6, 15 confirmed cases of MERS infection were reported from Saudi Arabia alone. On April 13, 12 cases of MERS were discovered in Jeddah, while another three cases were reported in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

In total, 194 confirmed cases of MERS have been reported in Saudi Arabia since September 2012, with 69 deaths resulting from the virus.

The situation at King Fahd hospital in Jeddah became so dire last Wednesday that the hospital decided to close its ER to decontaminate the facility, following reports that multiple medical personnel had become infected with the illness.

Over the weekend, the United Arab Emirates reported six more cases of the MERS virus, all victims being Filipino medical staff assisting at hospitals in the country.

"As far as we know, MERS-CoV does not spread easily from person-to-person, so these clusters suggest a breakdown in infection prevention and control," stated Dr. Ian M. Mackay, an Australian epidemiologist who has been tracking the virus.

A recent study was published stating that the MERS virus has been alive and active amongst camels for at least two decades now, with many camels obtaining the virus when they are young but never show any symptoms of illness. The camel-origins of the sickness make the virus even more difficult for scientists to pin down, seeing as most of the people infected have had no contact with camels before the illness sets in.

Despite the rising concern, Middle Eastern health authorities have assured the public that the virus is of no true concern, imploring people to remain steadfast in the everyday lives and to practice common positive health procedures to protect against illness.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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