As the Ebola virus continues to extend across West Africa, another deadly disease is menacing the Middle East. It’s called MERS—Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. Last year, the head of the World Health Organization warned that the disease was “a threat to the entire world,” and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have seen a surge of cases over the past two weeks. The WSJ reports:
Last week marked the biggest number of cases since the outbreak began, Dr. Ian M. Mackay, an Australian epidemiologist who has tracked the outbreak, wrote on Sunday. About 50 of the overall cases have been in health-care workers, he said, a strong warning sign about measures being taken to control the outbreak, he and others have said. “As far as we know, MERS-CoV does not spread easily from person-to-person, so these clusters suggest a breakdown in infection prevention and control.” […]The number rose sharply this month. In just the four days to last Thursday, Saudi Arabia notified the World Health Organization of 15 new confirmed MERS cases, including two deaths, the WHO posted on its official Twitter account late Sunday.
MERS kills most often through respiratory infections and, according to the CDC, has a roughly 50 percent fatality rate. Camels can host the disease, but it can also be spread through close human-to-human contact. While the current strain of the virus doesn’t spread in a sustained fashion, all of that could change with mutation. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.