Home > Pestilence > Specialists: SARS-Like Virus With Extremely High Mortality Rate Plagues Middle East

Specialists: SARS-Like Virus With Extremely High Mortality Rate Plagues Middle East


By Meeri Kim, The Washington Post – “A new virus responsible for an outbreak of respiratory illness in the Middle East may be more deadly than SARS, according to a team of infectious disease specialists who recently investigated a set of cases in Saudi Arabia.

Of 23 confirmed cases in April, 15 people died — an ‘extremely high’ fatality rate of 65 percent, according to Johns Hopkins senior epidemiologist Trish Perl, a member of the team that analyzed the spread of the virus through four Saudi hospitals.

Saudi officials said that as of Wednesday, 49 people have contracted the disease and 32 have died.

The infectious disease experts, who published their findings online Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, reported that infection occurred by way of person-to-person contact and poses an especially serious risk because it is easily transmitted in hospital settings.

Worldwide, the overall death rate from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus — or MERS-CoV — is at 59 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That rate is expected to bounce around as new clusters of infection develop.

The vast majority of MERS-CoV infections have been in Saudi Arabia. No cases have been reported in the United States, but small clusters of infections have appeared in Britain, France, Italy and Tunisia.

Since the virus first emerged in April 2012 with two fatal cases in Jordan, 64 people have been infected and 38 have died around the world. The virus comes from the same family as the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus, which killed nearly 800 people worldwide in 2003.

Both viruses have a distincthaloed appearance when viewed under a microscope, and they typically target the respiratory tract. Like SARS, MERS starts with a fever and mild cough that eventually progress to pneumonia.

At first, MERS does not look out of the ordinary compared with other, less serious types of respiratory infection. But Perl said doctors should start taking careful note of a patient’s travel history, since all reported cases have been linked to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.” Read more.

Flashback: Global Health Officials Worried As Two New Viruses in Middle East And China Could Spark Possible World-Wide Outbreak – “Two respiratory viruses in different parts of the world have captured the attention of global health officials – a novel coronavirus in the Middle East and a new bird flu spreading in China. Last week, the coronavirus related to SARS spread to France, where one patient who probably caught the disease in Dubai infected his hospital roommate. Officials are now trying to track down everyone who went on a tour group holiday to Dubai with the first patient as well as all contacts of the second patient. Since it was first spotted last year, the new coronavirus has infected 34 people, killing 18 of them. Nearly all had some connection to the Middle East.” Read more.

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Categories: Pestilence
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