MERS31 posts

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It is caused by a coronavirus called MERS-CoV. Most people who have been confirmed to have MERS-CoV infectionhave developed severe acute respiratory illness, fever, cough, and shortness of breath. More than 30% of those infected have died.
The virus was transmitted from camels to humans. It has now infected people all over the world.

4 Jul, 2015

Second Philippines case


Officials confirm Philippine’s second case of MERS in a 36-year-old man from Dubai, who flew to Manila on a flight from Dubai, after making a stopover in Saudi Arabia. He began showing symptoms and was admitted to the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa city, about 30km (18 miles) south of the capital, Manila, where he tested positive and was quarantined. The patient is recovering, but authorities continue to investigate those who he was in contact with.

26 Jun, 2015

Jail for avoiding quarantine

Law approved

South Korea passes a law that imprisons people for up to two years if they defy quarantine orders when suspected of having an infectious disease. Police officers, firefighters, and other public workers will also help health investigators enforce the quarantine law. This is in response to the 181 confirmed cases and 31 deaths resulting from an infection by a 68-year-old man from the Middle East who withheld information from doctors in his itinerary. The quarantine law also publicizes information about a disease outbreak in response to criticism that South Korea delayed reporting of hospitals affected by MERS.

15 Jun, 2015

South Korean schools reopen

As MERS cases and deaths slow, South Korean schools reopen following recommendation by WHO. President Park Geun-hye also asks the people of South Korea to resume business as normal in response to the country’s revenue loss following the outbreak. Bin Ko-ok, a grandmother of a first-grader:

The child’s mother and I both work, so I think it’s better for kids to be in school where there can be proper measures, rather than keeping them home.

2 Jun, 2015

First South Korea deaths

Death Count

South Korea’s health ministry confirms the first deaths of two people due to MERS. A 58-year-old woman, who had been treated as a suspected case of MERS, died of acute respiratory failure on June 29 and tests later came back positive for the virus. The other victim died on June 30, a 71-year-old man who was confirmed to have the virus several days ago. Six more people have been  diagnosed with the disease, bringing the total number of people infected to 25 including the two victims. Acting Prime Minister Choi Kyung-hwan tells an emergency meeting of officials:

People believe that the health authorities’ response has been inefficient and poor. We should use all our national resources to alleviate their concerns.

16 Jun, 2014

First case in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has its first case of MERS from a returning traveler. The Bangladesh native became sick two days after his return home. Health Officials suspect he caught the virus either in the Abu Dhabi airport or on the return plane. The patient’s health has improved, however he is still in intensive care. Bangladesh is the 22nd country to report a MERS infection.

11 Jun, 2014

Algeria death

Algeria reports its first case of a death due to MERS. A 66-year-old man dies at a hospital after being on treatment since his diagnosis a month ago. His diagnosis is confirmed after returning home from a pilgrimage trip to Saudi Arabia. Health officials state: He is one of two people identified as having MERS after returning from Saudi Arabia. A 59-year-old man, the second confirmed case, is still being treated in a hospital, and his health has improved.

6 Jun, 2014

Possible MERS, SARS vaccine

Researchers at Purdue University pave the way to a vaccine for the SARS virus. Andrew Mesecar, team leader, says the research can also be used with other coronaviruses, including MERS, which shares common enzymes. Their findings include a method of disabling a part of the virus that is present in severe acute respiratory syndromes.

This is a first step toward creating a weakened and safe virus for use in an attenuated live vaccine…The goal in engineering a SARS virus that could be used as a vaccine is to create one that replicates in cells but is unable to fend off the body’s immune response.

5 Jun, 2014

Camels transmit MERS

Researchers track down the origins of the MERS virus in camels. The camels who belong to a MERS victim were found to carry a virus identical to that found in the human. The camels all passed the virus among themselves, but did recover. Researchers suspect the victim was infected after applying a medication to their noses to stop unusual discharge. Although camels can pass the virus to humans, researchers suspect that Egyptian tomb bats may be the origin. The bats have a similar genetic sequence as the human MERS virus.

The exact reservoir that maintains the virus in its ecological niche has yet to be identified.

3 Jun, 2014

Saudi Arabia fires minister


The acting Saudi health minister fires Deputy Health Minister Doctor Ziad Memish.  No reasons for the dismissal are given publicly.  Some scientists had criticized Memish, a key figure in the country’s efforts to contain the disease, for his reluctance to collaborate with international specialists.  He is the second senior health official to be sacked in six weeks.  Saudi Arabia’s health minister lost his job when the rate of new infections began rising rapidly in April. 

Saudis revise deaths up 48% to 282

After further review of medical records, Saudi Arabian health officials find 113 previously undiagnosed cases, raising the actual death toll to 282, a 48% increase over the former count of 190 deaths.  The Health Ministry’s chief scientific adviser says:

While the review has resulted in a higher total number of previously unreported cases, we still see a decline in the number of new cases reported over the past few weeks.


1 Jun, 2014

Jordan: elderly man dead


A 69-year-old Jordanian man dies after contracting the virus. An official at Jordan’s Health Ministry confirms :

The man, who suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure, died in hospital on Wednesday. He died five days after he was admitted to hospital.

The official said the latest death brings to six the number of fatalities in Jordan from MERS since it first emerged in 2012.

31 May, 2014

Algeria confirms first cases


Two Algerian men, ages 66 and 59, test positive after returning from a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.  The Algerian Health Ministry confirms the cases but gives no details as to the men’s condition.

30 May, 2014

Iran reports first death


Iran’s official news agency reports that a 53-year-old woman in southeastern Iran has died.  The news comes a day after a daily newspaper reported two sisters in that area had the disease, one of them critically ill.  A health official says the women’s immune systems were weakened because of chronic illness but gave no details on how they acquired the disease.  Measures have been taken to inform pilgrims who plan to make the journey to Mecca about the disease.

Scientists find virus blocker


An international team of scientists announces it has found a compound, called K22, that appears to block the virus’s ability to spread in humans.  K22, they say, acts at an early stage of the infection, preventing the virus from taking over cells in the human respiratory tract.  While noting that this discovery is only the first step toward getting an approved treatment drug, the researchers say:

Importantly, K22 inhibits a broad range of coronaviruses, including Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS–CoV)…. We expect this mode of action to serve as a paradigm for the development of potent antiviral drugs to combat many animal and human virus infections.

28 May, 2014

CDC retracts report


The CDC says that additional tests have shown that the virus did not, in fact, spread from one man to another in the United States.  Earlier testing had found antibodies in an Illinois man who met the Indiana doctor diagnosed with the first US case of the disease.  However, other tests now show this was a false positive.

27 May, 2014

US contacts OK to work


Hospital workers in two states, who had contact with MERS patients, are cleared to go back to work.  In Florida, none of the 23 healthcare workers there who were exposed has had positive followup testing.  In Indiana, a second test clears all 50 employees of Community Hospital in Munster who had direct contact with a patient there.

26 May, 2014

Scientists to test dogs, cats and rats


An expert tells BBC News that lack of knowledge about the disease, which has about a 30% death rate, is forcing researchers to look more closely at domestic animals, including dogs and cats.  If camels were the only source of infection, he notes, more people who work with them should be infected.  A small number of fatal cases have happened without any known contact with camels.  No evidence of infection has been found in goats and sheep.

The others that we are looking into or are trying to look into are cats, dogs – where there is more intimate contact – and any other wild species we can get serum from that we are not currently getting.

18 May, 2014

First US person-to-person transmission


US health officials report that an Illinois man, a business associate of the first American diagnosed with the disease, has shown evidence of infection after meeting the first patient twice in late April.  The two men sat face to face during a 40-minute meeting and then had a shorter meeting later.  The Illinois man didn’t get sick enough to seek treatment.  An expert at the CDC notes that the new case highlights how little is known about how the disease the disease spreads and how many people are infected, but he also insists that it doesn’t change their belief that MERS is not spread easily, like flu.

15 May, 2014

Second Netherlands case confirmed

Netherlands’ National Public Health Institute says a second case has been diagnosed, one day after the first.  The patients, a man and a woman, are family members who traveled together and shared a room in Saudi Arabia for two weeks.  Officials don’t know if one or both of them picked up the disease at the same location, but one of them did visit a camel farm.  Both individuals have underlying conditions that make them more susceptible to the disease.

14 May, 2014

Warning signs going up at 22 US airports


At the request of the Centers for Disease Control, the Transportation Security Administration puts up warning signs at selected airports, including O’Hare in Chicago, through which the first US MERS patient traveled in late April.  The signs note, that while the risk is low, travelers who get sick within 14 days of visiting the Arabian Peninsula should seek medical care.  Customs staff have also been reminded to be on the alert for sick travelers.

13 May, 2014

Health workers exposed, one hospitalized

One of two health workers at a Florida hospital exposed to the Orlando patient has been admitted to the hospital but is in stable condition. The other was treated and discharged and is following precautions at home. Officials are monitoring the health of another 20 healthcare workers including a doctor who had already left for Canada and are tracking down nearly 100 people who may have overlapped with the patient at two Orlando medical facilities he visited. Dr. Kevin Sherin, director of the Florida Department of Health for Orange County says:

We’re not going to see the last of this. We are going to see more cases coming to our community. … All of the emergency departments in the United States, to be perfectly honest, need to become very familiar with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, and making sure the protocols are in place.

World Health body meets in Geneva

The World Health Organization convenes an emergency meeting in Geneva to decide whether the rising rate of confirmed cases, most of them in Saudi Arabia, constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern.” The last time the agency set up an emergency committee was in response to the 2009 H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic.

White House spokesman Jay Carney says the CDC “is taking the current situation very seriously and is working in close coordination with local health authorities,” and adds that President Barack Obama had been briefed on the confirmed cases.

12 May, 2014

Second US case confirmed, more expected


A 44-year-old health care worker who arrived in Orlando, Florida, from Saudi Arabia has become the country’s second diagnosed caseThe man. who resides and works in Saudi Arabia, traveled by plane May 1 from Jeddah to London, England, then to Boston, Atlanta, and Orlando.  Over 500 passengers on US segments of the man’s flight from Saudi Arabia to London, Boston, Atlanta and then Orlando were exposed and are being notified.  The worker is said to be doing well at Dr. P. Phillips Hospital in Orlando. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more cases are expected. 

7 May, 2014

Camel-human transmission


Researchers find high virus levels in camel eyes and noses.  They believe humans are most likely to be infected from these sites, especially from nasal discharge.

No Hajj travel ban


After a five-day inspection, World Health Organization experts don’t recommend restrictions on travel to Saudi Arabia, including upcoming pilgrimages, although two deaths and 10 more cases are reported today. In Jeddah, WHO and Acting Health Minister Adel Fakeih launch a kingdom-wide public awareness campaign, urging the public to do frequent hand washing and sanitizing as well as to avoid contact with eyes, nose and mouth.  The experts recommend cooking camel meat until well done and avoiding unpasteurized camel milk.

The government is doing its best to prevent the spread of the MERS coronavirus, which is why we need the help of residents in implementing simple precautionary measures to help curb the disease

5 May, 2014

Saudi Arabia: 115 dead

DeathDeath Count

Eighteen more cases are diagnosed in the past 48 hours, bringing the total to 414.  Overall, 115 people have died of MERS.  There is concern about the disease’s impact when millions visit Saudi Arabia in July for Ramadan and in October for the Hajj pilgrimage.

US patient expected home soon


Doctors in Indiana report that the first US patient to be diagnosed is recovering and should go home soon.  While others have been tested, no more diagnoses have been made.  Medical staff continue to monitor the situation closely.

2 May, 2014

Arrives in USA

schuchatA health care worker who had just returned from Saudi Arabia, is diagnosed with MERS. The patient began experiencing shortness of breath, coughing, and fever on April 27.  He was admitted to Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana, after first going to the emergency room there. He is currently isolated and in stable condition.  Dr. Anne Schuchat, Assistant Surgeon General with the U.S. Public Health Service said:

The virus poses a very low risk to the broader general public, and has not been shown to spread easily from person to person

16 Apr, 2014

Malaysia reports first Asian death

A 54-year old Malaysian man from southern Johor state neighboring Singapore who went on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia has become the first death in Asia from Middle East respiratory syndrome. The man returned to Malaysia on March 29 and developed a high fever and cough and had difficulty breathing more than a week later. Malaysia’s health ministry urged all passengers travelling with the victim on Turkish Airlines on March 29 to report for health checks.

26 Mar, 2013

Patient dies in Munich


A 73-year old man from the United Arab Emirates dies of the disease, the first to do so in Germany. The man had a chronic blood disease called multiple myeloma and had recently tended one of his camels that was sick. On March 10, he was hospitalized in Abu Dubai two days after becoming suddenly ill, and was then transferred to the Klinikum Schwabing in Munich with severe acute respiratory infection on March 19. He rapidly developed kidney failure and died of septic shock 10 days later.

The patient fits what appears to be a typical profile of those infected with MERS to date. All these patients either lived in one of the Middle East countries (many had close contact with camels), or had recently traveled to it, or contracted MERS from a patient who had “imported” it to Europe from the Middle East. In addition to the Middle East connection, the typical MERS patient is older, predominantly male, and has some underlying disease or compromised immune system.

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