Symptoms of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS-CoV) Virus Infection

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A new aggressive pathogen has recently been identified; it's a coronavirus that causes symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath that may become severe or deadly. The disease is termed MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS-CoV). The disease was first noted in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Researchers suggest the MERS virus originated in animals (camels) and, like other viruses, mutated to be able to infect humans. MERS has currently spread to about 18 countries over the world to date (for example, Egypt, Turkey, France, Greece, Tunisia, Italy, UK, and the U.S.). Unfortunately, in March 2014, the numbers of people infected started increasing worldwide. There is worldwide concern about this infection; of the approximately 500 individuals diagnosed with MERS so far, about 30% have died, resulting in a 70% survival rate.

Although some people with MERS virus infection have mild or even no symptoms, many others suffer flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, malaise; some develop diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and kidney failure) that progress to a severe respiratory syndrome that has caused death, as mentioned above, in about 30% of people infected. Although the majority of patients have had close association with an infected person (family members and health-care workers), a recent case report documents only a casual contact with an infected individual (business meeting), suggesting that prolonged contact may not be required to infect other individuals. Spread or transmission of the virus is thought to be by direct contact, but research is ongoing to determine the precise way the virus is spread.