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First MERS Case In USA: Health Worker Just Returned from Saudi Arabia

CDC confirms first case of MERS virus in American

This file photo provided by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a colorized transmission of the MERS coronavirus that emerged in 2012. Health officials on Friday, May 2, 2014 said the deadly virus from the Middle East has turned up for the first time in the U.S. (AP Photo/National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases via The Canadian Press, File)

By MIKE STOBBENEW YORK (AP) — Health officials on Friday confirmed the first case of an American infected with a mysterious Middle East virus. The man fell ill after arriving in the U.S. about a week ago from Saudi Arabia where he is a health care worker.

The man is hospitalized in Indiana with Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is investigating the case along with Indiana health officials.

Saudi Arabia has been the center of an outbreak of MERS that began about two years ago. At least 400 people have had the respiratory illness, and more than 100 people have died. All had ties to the Middle East or to people who traveled there. Infections have been previously reported among health care workers.

MERS belongs to the coronavirus family that includes the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which caused some 800 deaths globally in 2003.

The MERS virus has been found in camels, but officials don’t know how it is spreading to humans. It can spread from person to person, but officials believe that happens only after close contact. Not all those exposed to the virus become ill.

But it appears to be unusually lethal – by some estimates, it has killed nearly a third of the people it sickened. That’s a far higher percentage than seasonal flu or other routine infections. But it is not as contagious as flu, measles or other diseases. There is no vaccine or cure for MERS.

The CDC on Friday released only limited information about the U.S. case: The man flew to the United States about a week ago, with a stop in London. He landed in Chicago and took a bus to the neighboring state of Indiana. He didn’t become sick until arriving in Indiana, the CDC said. Symptoms include fever, cough, breathing problems, which can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure.

CDC officials say they are sending a team to investigate the man’s illness, his travel history and to track down people he may have been in close contact with.

Saudi Arabia health officials have recently reported a surge in MERS illnesses; cases have tended to increase in the spring. Experts think the uptick may party be due to more and better surveillance. Researchers at Columbia University have an additional theory – there may be more virus circulating in the spring, when camels are born.

U.S. health officials have been bracing for the arrival of one or more cases, likely among travelers. Isolated cases of MERS have been carried outside the Middle East. Previously, 163 suspected cases were tested in the U.S. but none confirmed.

 

May 2, 2014 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia, Travel | | Leave a comment

MERS Virus Found to be Widespread

Thank you, John Mueller, for this fascinating article from Science NOW:

Middle Eastern Virus More Widespread Than Thought

28 February 2014 12:45 pm

 

Trail of infection. Scientists have found MERS virus in camels from Sudan and Ethiopia, suggesting the virus is more widespread than previously thought.Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia CommonsTrail of infection. Scientists have found MERS virus in camels from Sudan and Ethiopia, suggesting the virus is more widespread than previously thought.

It’s called Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, after the region where almost all the patients have been reported. But the name may turn out to be a misnomer. A new study has found the virus in camels from Sudan and Ethiopia, suggesting that Africa, too, harbors the pathogen. That means MERS may sicken more humans than previously thought—and perhaps be more likely to trigger a pandemic.

MERS has sickened 183 people and killed 80, most of them in Saudi Arabia. A couple of cases have occurred in countries outside the region, such as France and the United Kingdom, but those clusters all started with a patient who had traveled to the Middle East before falling ill.

Scientists have uncovered more and more evidence implicating camels in the spread of the disease. They found that a large percentage of camels in the Middle East have antibodies against MERS in their blood, while other animals, such as goats and sheep, do not. Researchers have also isolated MERS virus RNA from nose swabs of camels in Qatar, and earlier this week, they showed that the virus has circulated in Saudi Arabian camels for at least 2 decades.

Malik Peiris, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Hong Kong, and colleagues expanded the search to Africa. In a paper published last year, they showed that camels in Egypt carried antibodies against MERS. For the new study, they took samples from four abattoirs around Egypt; again they found antibodies against MERS in the blood of 48 out of 52 camels they tested. But the most interesting results came from taking nose swabs from 110 camels: They found MERS RNA in four animals that had been shipped in from Sudan and Ethiopia.

Peiris cautions that it is unclear whether the infected camels picked up the virus in Sudan and Ethiopia or on their final journey in Egypt. Abattoirs could help spread MERS just like live poultry markets do for influenza, he says. “You cannot point the finger exactly at where those viruses came from,” he says. “But I would be very surprised if you do not find the virus in large parts of Africa.”

If so, that changes the picture of MERS considerably. No human MERS cases have been reported from Egypt or anywhere else in Africa, but if camels are infected, they may well occur, says Marion Koopmans, an infectious disease researcher at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. “It would be important to look systematically into that,” she writes in an e-mail. “Health authorities really need to test patients with severe pneumonia all across Africa for MERS,” Peiris says.

The researchers were able to sequence the virus of one of the camels almost completely, and it is more than 99% identical with viruses found in people. “I would be very surprised if this virus cannot infect humans,” says Christian Drosten, a virologist at the University of Bonn in Germany. But the virus also shows a few intriguing differences from known camel samples, he says. “We have to analyze this carefully in the next few days, but it looks like this sequence broadens the viral repertoire found in camels,” he says. If the viruses found in camels show more genetic variation than those isolated from humans, that is further strong evidence that camels are infecting humans and not the other way around.

Anthony Mounts, the point person for MERS at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, says that it is very likely that human MERS cases occur in Africa. “Wherever we find [infected] camels, there is a good chance we’ll find [human] cases if we look closely,” he says. And humans may be exposed to camels in Africa much more often than in the Middle East: There were about 260,000 camels in Saudi Arabia in 2012, but almost a million in Ethiopia and 4.8 million in Sudan, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. The more human cases there are, the higher the risk that the virus will one day learn how to become easily transmissible between people, which could set off a pandemic.

The researchers also looked at the blood of 179 people working at the camel abattoirs for antibodies against MERS virus, but found none. That shows that the virus is only rarely successful in infecting human beings, Peiris says. “What we need to find out now is the reason for these rare transmissions.”

March 1, 2014 Posted by | Africa, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, News, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan | , , , , | Leave a comment

Saudis Say MERS Virus Not Following SARS Path

What do you think? While ministers in Saudi Arabia seem unconcerned, this virus, which appears to have originated among an as yet unidentified animal in Saudi Arabia, kills about half the people infected with it. And soon, with the Hajj, the Moslem pilgrimage to Mecca, thousands will travel to Saudi Arabia, testing the theory that this virus does not spread easily. . .

Mers: New virus ‘not following Sars’ path’
By James Gallagher
Health and science reporter, BBC News

The new Mers virus, which has killed half of those infected, is “unlikely” to reach the same scale as Sars, ministers in Saudi Arabia say.

Most of the 90 Mers cases reported so far have been in Saudi Arabia.

Mers is from the same group of viruses as the common cold and Sars, which killed 774 people.

However, a detailed analysis of the Saudi cases, published in Lancet Infectious Diseases, did warn of “major gaps” in understanding of the virus.

The Middle East respiratory-syndrome coronavirus (Mers) emerged in 2012 and has infected 90 people worldwide, 45 of them have died.

The global concern is that cases could spread much further, echoing the Sars outbreak.

Cases have been centred on the Middle East – with patients in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Additional cases in France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and the UK have all been linked to travel to the Middle East.

Researchers in Saudi Arabia have published details of the 47 cases reported in the country.

They suggest a pattern of mostly older men being infected. Most cases were also in people with other medical problems, more than two-thirds of the reported cases also had diabetes.

Low threat
The lead researcher and Deputy Minister for Public Health, Prof Ziad Memish, said: “Despite sharing some clinical similarities with Sars, there are also some important differences.

“In contrast to Sars, which was much more infectious especially in healthcare settings and affected the healthier and the younger age group, Mers appears to be more deadly, with 60% of patients with co-existing chronic illnesses dying, compared with the 1% toll of Sars.

“Although this high mortality rate with Mers is probably spurious due to the fact that we are only picking up severe cases and missing a significant number of milder or asymptomatic cases.

“So far there is little to indicate that Mers will follow a similar path to Sars.”

A report earlier this month showed that the virus struggled to spread in people.

However, it and the latest Saudi investigation both highlighted the need to find where the virus was coming from.

Prof Memish’s report said: “Reducing the rate of introduction of Mers coronavirus into human beings is unpredictable because the source of the virus is not yet known.

“We are searching vigorously for the source.”

Here is a graph from a private report called Virology Down Under, a fascinating read on the identification and development of the MERS Virus by Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)..

Last Updated 19-Jul-2013
Written by Ian M. Mackay, PhD on his personal time.
All opinions are his own and do not represent medical advice or the views of any institution.:

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July 26, 2013 Posted by | Health Issues, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia, Spiritual, Travel, Work Related Issues | | Leave a comment