Last year the new respiratory virus emerged in Middle East that make people sicker faster than SARS, but it doesn’t spread easily according to the latest report of four dozen cases in Saudi Arabia.
The World Health Organization has reported 90 cases of MERS, the Middle East respiratory syndrome, including 45 deaths. Most cases have been in Saudi Arabia, and other virus has also been identified in countries like Jordan, Qatar, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Tunisia. MERS is related to SARS and the two diseases have similar symptoms including a fever, cough and muscle pain.
“The virus is still confined to Middle East. Since this is a corona virus and are able to cause pandemics “said Dr. Christian Drosten of the University of Bonn Medical Centre in Germany,”
Corona viruses are a group of viruses that cause respiratory infections like common cold, but it also includes SARS, the virus that killed about 800 people in a 2003 global outbreak. MERS is distantly related to SARS but there are major differences between the two. Unlike SARS, MERS can cause rapid kidney failure and doesn’t seem as infectious.
Drosten said in October millions of Muslim pilgrims visit Saudi Arabiais worrisome. On Thursday, WHO said the risk of an individual traveler to Mecca catching MERS was considered “very low.” The agency does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions or entry screening for the hajj.
Recent study shows that 42 of the 47 cases in Saudi Arabia need intensive care. Of those, 34 patients are bad and needed a breathing machine. These cases were in older men as one of the biggest outbreaks was among dialysis patients at several hospitals. The research was published Friday in the journal, Lancet Infectious Diseases.
MERS also appears to be mainly affecting men; nearly 80 percent of the cases in the new study were men. Drosten said there might be a cultural explanation for that.
“Women in the (Middle East) region tend to have their mouths covered with at least two layers of cloth,” he said, referring to the veils worn by women in Saudi Arabia. “If the corona virus is being spread by droplets, (the veils) should give women some protection.”
Scientists still haven’t pinpointed the source of MERS WHO says the virus is capable of spreading between people but how exactly how that happens — via coughing, sneezing or indirect physical contact — isn’t known.