Disease

Novel Coronavirus – Saudi Arabia – Update

The mysterious new respiratory virus that originated in the Middle East spreads easily between people and appears more deadly than SARS, doctors report.

More than 60 cases of what is now called MERS, including 38 deaths, have been recorded by the World Health Organisation in the past year, mostly in Saudi Arabia.

An international team of doctors who investigated nearly two dozen cases in eastern Saudi Arabia found the new coronavirus has some striking similarities to SARS.

In a worrying finding, the team said on Wednesday, MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) not only spreads easily between people, but within hospitals. That was also the case with SARS, a distant relative of the new virus. They couldn’t nail down how it was spread in every case – through droplets from sneezing or coughing, or a more indirect route. Some of the hospital patients weren’t close to the infected person, but somehow picked up the virus.

“In the right circumstances, the spread could be explosive,” the Doctors said.

Cases have continued to trickle in, and there appears to be an ongoing outbreak in Saudi Arabia. MERS cases have also been reported in Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Tunisia. Most have had a direct connection to the Middle East region. In the Saudi cluster that was investigated, certain patients infected many more people than would be expected.

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