MERS Virus Spread to Egypt by Infected Saudi Arabia Traveler

Monday, 28 Apr 2014 07:09 AM

By Michael Mullins

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The MERS virus has spread to Egypt via a 27-year-old civil engineer who was diagnosed in Cairo on Saturday after having returned from an extended stay in Saudi Arabia – the virus' country of origin and where the majority of cases have been reported thus far.

Egypt's Ministry of Health immediately quarantined the man at the airport upon his arrival.

There is no cure for the potentially deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus which is a respiratory illness in which those infected exhibit common cold symptoms such as fever and a mild cough before progressing to more serious problems such as pneumonia, kidney failure and in some cases eventually death.

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According to The Associated Press, of the 313 people that have contracted MERS virus in Saudi since September 2012, 92 have died including five this past Friday. In total there have been 350 cases reported worldwide of which more than 100 have died from the virus, which has since spread from the Middle East to Asia and Europe.

Scientists have yet to determine exactly how MERS Virus is transmitted between people; however in May of 2013 the World Health Organization warned that the MERS virus represented a "threat to entire world."

According to Egypt's Ministry of Health, the 27-year-old, who is originally from the Nile Delta but was living in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, is in stable condition and presently being treated for pneumonia at a Cairo hospital, Reuters reported.

In an attempt to quell the concerns of its populace, Saudi authorities are said to be racing to develop a vaccine for MERS virus, though virology experts argue against it considering so few have contracted it.

"There are enormous problems with the idea of a MERS vaccine," Ian Jones, a virologist at Britain's Reading University who has been following the outbreak from the start, told Reuters.

"I can see it works as an appeasement - that they want to say they can make it - and biochemically of course they could, but practically it doesn't make any sense," Jones added.

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"Who would you vaccinate?" Jones asked. "Would you vaccinate the whole population when only a tiny number of people seem to be susceptible?"

MARS virus is lethal in about 30 percent of its cases to date, however the concern is that considering it comes from the same coronavirus family as SARS – which killed some 800 people in a global outbreak in 2003, MARS virus might in time prove just as deadly if not more so than its cousin virus if it is able to spread worldwide.

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