The MERS virus has made its way from the Middle East into Europe, Africa, South Asia and North America, with two cases confirmed in the U.S. As the number of cases continues to grow, health authorities are calling for more urgent measures to control the potentially fatal virus that has infected hundreds of people globally. Read the full story at WSJ.com.
1. MERS IS A DEADLY VIRAL ILLNESS THAT TARGETS THE RESPIRATORY SYSTEM.
MERS, which stands for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, is a deadly virus that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and now has been reported in at least 18 countries. Most people diagnosed with MERS have developed severe respiratory illness, with symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pneumonia and gastrointestinal symptoms also have been reported. About 27% of people with MERS have died. As of May 9, more than 500 cases had been confirmed, the World Health Organization says.
2. SO FAR, ALL REPORTED CASES OF MERS HAVE BEEN LIKED TO THE MIDDLE EAST.
The majority of MERS cases have been concentrated in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia. The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Jordan and several other countries in the Arabian Peninsula have reported cases as well. Travel from the region has caused cases to pop up elsewhere, including in European countries such as France, Germany and the U.K. Malaysia and the Philippines have also reported cases, as have Egypt and Tunisia. This week, a second confirmed case appeared in the U.S. Within the U.S., however, the risk of contracting the virus is very low, the CDC says.
3. THE VIRUS APPEARS TO SPREAD FROM CLOSE HUMAN CONTACT.
Little is known about how the virus is transmitted, though the CDC says MERS spreads among people in close physical contact, such as family members and health-care workers treating MERS patients. Both U.S. cases, for example, are health-care workers who traveled from Saudi Arabia, while up to one-fifth of all cases have involved health-care workers, according to the CDC. Also, some people infected with MERS haven’t appeared to experience symptoms, the WHO says. Health organizations say humans might have first contracted the virus from animals, which could still be infecting people. Camels in several Middle Eastern countries have been confirmed carrying the MERS coronavirus, the strain that causes MERS in people.