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UPDATE: MERS CoV in Saudi Arabia

While the fight against Ebola continues in West Africa – particularly in Guinea and Sierra Leone – Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS CoV) is affecting Saudi Arabia and surrounding countries.

MERS CoV usually develops into a severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About 30 percent of people with confirmed cases of MERS CoV have died, the CDC said. Currently, all cases of MERS CoV have been linked to countries on the Arabian Peninsula.

Since it was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, 22 countries had reported cases of the virus, including the United Kingdom and United States.

‘A report by the official Saudi Press Agency said authorities have registered a total of 688 confirmed infections and 282 deaths as a result of MERS … Of those infected, 53 were reported to still be receiving treatment,’ according to Associated Press reporter Adam Schreck’s June 3 article ‘Saudi Arabia Review Finds Higher Number of MERS Cases’ on the Huffington Post website.

In its Dec. 17 report on MERS, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported an additional 11 cases of the infection in Saudi Arabia between November 20 and December 7. Those cases include four deaths.

The family of coronaviruses that MERS belongs to includes the common cold as well as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Early symptoms of MERS CoV are much like the flu, but can advance to pneumonia, breathing difficulty and even kidney failure and death.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus has spread from infected individuals to others with close contact. However, community settings have not been proven to sustain spreading of the illness, according to the CDC. The June 13 WHO report, ‘Update on MERS-CoV transmission from animals to humans, and interim recommendations for at-risk groups,’ said farm workers and people with regular close contact with animals may be at higher risk of contracting the virus:

‘Discovery of the routes of transmission, whether direct or indirect, between camels and people, is critical to stopping transmission of the virus. WHO is working with partner agencies with expertise in animal health and food safety, including FAO, OIE and national authorities, to facilitate ongoing investigations.’

The CDC, WHO and health departments around the world are monitoring the spread of the MERS CoV. The global effort seeks to better understand MERS and how it spreads, and to prevent infection and spreading of the virus.

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