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MERS - Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

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Old 05-24-2013, 09:59 AM
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A new pneumonia-like virus...
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WHO: Scientific red tape mars efforts vs. virus
May 23,`13 -- International efforts to combat a new pneumonia-like virus that has now killed 22 people are being slowed by unclear rules and competition for the potentially profitable rights to disease samples, the head of the World Health Organization warned Thursday.
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Dr. Margaret Chan, in a blunt warning to the U.N. agency's annual global assembly, portrayed a previously little-known flap over who owns a sample of the virus as a global game-changer that could put people's lives at risk. The virus, which first emerged in Saudi Arabia where most cases have arisen, is called MERS for Middle East respiratory syndrome. "Please, I'm very strong on this point, and I want you to excuse me," she said. "Tell your scientists in your country, because you're the boss. You're the national authority. Why would your scientists send specimens out to other laboratories on a bilateral manner and allow other people to take intellectual property rights on a new disease?"

The controversy stems from a sample taken by Saudi microbiologist Ali Mohamed Zaki that he mailed last year to virologist Ron Fouchier at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands. Fouchier tested, sequenced and identified it last September as a new virus. Then his private medical center patented how it synthesized the germ and required other researchers who wanted samples to first sign an agreement that could trigger a payment. Saudi Arabia, which had the first case, said the patenting delayed its development of diagnostic kits and blood tests. "There was a lag of three months where we were not aware of the discovery of the virus," Deputy Health Minister Ziad Memish told the Geneva assembly. He said the sample was sent to the Dutch lab without official permission.

So far there is no blood test for detecting infection in communities. Memish said that patients need to be isolated because in some cases, diarrhea or vomiting may help spread the germ. Dr. Keiji Fukuda, WHO's assistant director-general for health security, said his agency also has been "struggling with diagnostics" because of property rights concerns and ill-defined international rules for sharing such materials. Chan railed against any arrangement that could prevent rapid sharing of information or that would enable individual scientists or private labs to profit. WHO officials say the delays involve blood and other tests though a few other facilities in Canada, Britain and Germany have samples.

Fouchier, however, said the agreements between individual countries are similar to those within WHO's networks. "There are no restrictions to the use of the virus for research and public health purposes. There are only restrictions for commercial exploitation and forwarding virus to third parties," he wrote in an email, responding to questions from The Associated Press. Any delays claimed by WHO are a misconception, he said. "After the first identification of the virus, diagnostic tests were developed in collaboration with several public health laboratories, and these tests were distributed free of charge to everyone around the world who asked for them," Fouchier added. "We have not denied access to the virus to any research and public health laboratory with the appropriate facilities to handle this virus safely."

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Old 06-01-2013, 01:06 AM
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Death Toll from SARS-Like Virus Rises to 30
May 31, 2013 — The World Health Organization said the global death toll from a SARS-like virus has risen to 30, after three new deaths were reported in Saudi Arabia. Health experts are scrambling to understand the new virus.
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World Health Organization spokesperson Gregory Hartl spoke to VOA from Geneva. He said, "As of today we have 50 confirmed cases of which unfortunately 30 have died.” The most recent deaths occurred in Saudi Arabia, from where two-thirds of the cases have emerged. In all, eight countries that have been affected by the virus, including Tunisia, Jordan, Britain, and France, where earlier this week a 65-year-old man died of the virus - the first patient in France to die from the condition.

But Hartl emphasized that up until now the virus appears to have its routes in the Middle East. “So far all the cases have a connection to the Arabian Peninsula," he said. "The initial cases in France and in the U.K. and in Tunisia all had a travel history associated with somewhere on the Arabian Peninsula and then once they got back to their home countries there was a very limited person-to-person transmission.”

The virus has recently been given a new name, the Middle East Respiratory Symptom Coronavirus, or MERS for short. It is a cousin of SARS, another coronavirus, which emerged in Asia a decade ago and went on to kill around 800 people. Health experts say SARS, which was spread by respiratory droplets through coughing or sneezing, appears to have passed from person to person more easily than the new virus.

But speaking in Geneva on Monday the director-general of the WHO said MERS is a "threat to the entire world". Hartl said of major concern right now is how little is known about the virus. “We need to figure out how and where humans get infected in order to be able to control it," he said. "And we also need to work to develop medical means of treating the disease in terms of vaccines or anti-virals, which we do not have at the moment.” The source of MERS is yet unknown. But the World Health Organizations said it appears to have originated in bats. It said a single variant from bats may have crossed over to another, intermediate animal before subsequently infecting humans.

Death Toll from SARS-Like Virus Rises to 30
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Old 06-01-2013, 02:09 AM
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MERS lol. The media can't hype something unless they give it a cool name.
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Old 06-06-2013, 11:32 PM
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U.S. Says Deadly MERS Virus Could Affect Nat’l Security
June 6, 2013 – As Saudi and U.N. health authorities report new infections from a troubling new respiratory disease, there are concerns that the approaching Hajj – the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca – could increase the risk of spreading the virus as pilgrims return to their home countries.
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Meanwhile the U.S. government, in a notice published in the Federal Register Wednesday, declared that the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV, or simply MERS) could potentially “affect national security or the health and security of United States citizens living abroad.” Saudi Arabia is currently the undisputed center of the scare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the majority of the 55 confirmed MERS cases – 40 infections, 24 deaths – have occurred in the kingdom, while two deaths each have been reported in Britain and Jordan and one death each in France and the United Arab Emirates. (The fatalities in Europe were linked to visits to the Middle East.) Infections also have been reported in Qatar, Tunisia and Italy.

The notice published in the Federal Register Wednesday said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has determined that “there is a significant potential for a public health emergency that has a significant potential to affect national security or the health and security of United States citizens living abroad.” That determination in turn allows the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to bypass standard processes and fast-track approval for products or drugs in relation to MERS, on the basis of an “emergency use application” (EUA). The FDA may under the prescribed circumstances issue an EUA “authorizing (1) the emergency use of an unapproved drug, an unapproved or uncleared device, or an unlicensed biological product; or (2) an unapproved use of an approved drug, approved or cleared device, or licensed biological product,” the notice says.

Saudi Arabia says more than two million Muslims – including roughly 20,000 from the United States – visit Mecca for the Hajj, which brings large numbers of people into close proximity in a confined geographical area over a five-day period. This year’s pilgrimage falls in mid-October. As of Wednesday, the U.N. World Health Organization (WHO) said it was not advising any “special screening at points of entry” as a result of the outbreak, “nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions.” Updated guidelines for Hajj pilgrims, issued by the Saudi Embassy in Washington, make no mention of MERS in a section on health issues and vaccination requirements. Vaccinations that are required for adults include those for meningitis, seasonal flu, and the H1N1 flu virus. The guidelines do include an unspecific warning: “Health experts advise the following groups to postpone their plans for Hajj and Umrah this year for their own safety: The elderly, the terminally ill, pregnant women, and children.” (The Umrah is a secondary type of pilgrimage to Mecca, one that can be taken any time of the year.)

In its health guidelines related to MERS, the Saudi health ministry has one reference to the pilgrimage, advising the wearing of face masks “in the overcrowded places during Hajj or Umrah.” A Malaysian study published in the Journal of Travel Medicine in 2010 found that more than 60 percent of Malaysian pilgrims developed respiratory systems, including coughs, sore throats and fever, during the 2007 Hajj. A French study, published in the same journal and examining French pilgrims at the 2009 Hajj, found that although almost 80 percent reported having worn face masks, their use “did not significantly reduce respiratory symptoms.” The most recent fatality reported to WHO by Saudi health authorities is that of a 14 year-old girl. It was noted that she is not from an area in the east of the kingdom called Al-Ahsa, where a cluster of cases at one hospital since April accounted for 22 infections and 10 deaths. According to the CDC, there have been no reports of anyone in the U.S. becoming infected with the virus, whose symptoms can include cause coughing, fever and pneumonia.

‘Alarming’
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Old 06-11-2013, 01:05 AM
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WHO: New Virus Has Pandemic Potential
June 10, 2013 > The World Health Organization is asking health workers around the world to be on alert for symptoms of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus.
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Monday's warning came as WHO officials ended a six-day investigation in Saudi Arabia, where 40 of the 55 cases of the respiratory disease have occurred. Sixty percent of those people with known infections died.

The United Nations agency is concerned that the MERS virus might spread among pilgrims expected to visit holy sites in Saudi Arabia next month during Ramadan, or the millions more expected in October for the annual Hajj to Mecca.

Officials are also worried that guest workers in the kingdom could carry the virus home to other countries, possibly causing a global pandemic.

Travelers have carried the virus to Britain, France, Germany and Italy. Infected people have also been found in Jordan, Qatar, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.

WHO: New Virus Has Pandemic Potential
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WHO: MERS Coronavirus Has Potential to Cause Pandemic
June 10, 2013 — The World Health Organization on Monday urged health workers around the world to be on the alert for symptoms of the deadly Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS), which has the potential to circle the globe and cause a pandemic.
Quote:
The United Nations agency, which issued new, long-awaited guidance to countries on influenza pandemics, said the world was also in the same “alert phase” for two human strains of bird flu - H5N1, which emerged a decade ago, and H7N9, first detected in China in March. “We are trying to find out as much as we can and we are concerned about these (three) viruses,” Andrew Harper, WHO special adviser for health security and environment, told a news briefing on its new scale for pandemic risk. The interim guidance, to be finalized later this year, incorporates lessons from the 2009/2010 pandemic of H1N1 swine flu, which caused an estimated 200,000 deaths, roughly in line with annual seasonal flu.

Having been adjusted to include the notion of severity when assessing risk, the new scale has just four phases against six previously and is intended to give countries more flexibility in judging local risks. “International concern about these infections is high, because it is possible for this virus to move around the world. There have been now several examples where the virus has moved from one country to another through travelers,” the WHO said of MERS, which causes coughing, fever and pneumonia.

Travelers have carried the virus to Britain, France, Germany and Italy. Infected people have also been found in Jordan, Qatar, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. “Consequently, all countries in the world need to ensure that their healthcare workers are aware of the virus and the disease it can cause and that, when unexplained cases of pneumonia are identified, MERS-CoV should be considered.”

MERS-coronavirus, a distant relative of SARS that emerged in Saudi Arabia last year, has been confirmed in 55 people worldwide, killing 31 of them. Forty cases occurred in Saudi Arabia, many in a hospital in the eastern province of al-Ahsa. “The overall number of cases is limited but the virus causes death in about 60 percent of patients,” the WHO said, reporting on a week-long mission of international experts to Saudi Arabia that ended on Sunday. “So far, about 75 percent of the cases in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have been in men and most have occurred in people with one or more major chronic conditions.”

But the source of the MERS virus remained unknown, it said. Clusters of cases have occurred in families and health facilities, indicating a limited capacity to spread among people in close contact with an infected person, it said. All countries in the Middle East should urgently intensify disease surveillance to detect any MERS infections, it said. The WHO has not yet drawn up advice for travelers ahead of the annual haj pilgrimage in October, which draws millions of Muslims to Saudi Arabia.

WHO: MERS Coronavirus Has Potential to Cause Pandemic
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Old 07-19-2013, 05:00 AM
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Six New MERS Coronavirus Cases Reported
July 18, 2013 — Health authorities in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have reported six new cases of the SARS-like coronavirus, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
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The latest infections of four women and two men aged between 26 and 42 bring the global total to 88 cases, including 45 deaths, the United Nations agency said in a statement. Five of the six new cases were health workers and the other was a man who came in close contact with someone who had been infected with the disease, which is known as Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or MERS, WHO said.

Millions are expected to travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia in October for the haj pilgrimage. Saudi authorities have cut the number of visas this year, citing safety concerns over expansion work at the main mosque site. The WHO is drawing up advice on travel in relation to coronavirus, to be issued in coming days. It urged health care providers to be vigilant for severe acute respiratory infections and test any recent travelers from the Middle East suffering from such infections for MERS.

The global health body has set up an emergency committee of independent experts on MERS, who said on Wednesday it was not a “public health emergency of international concern” for the time being. The committee can make recommendations on travel and trade restrictions, increased disease surveillance and exchange of data.

Two of the new coronavirus cases in Abu Dhabi and both cases in Saudi Arabia displayed mild symptoms. The other two in Abu Dhabi had no symptoms of the disease. Cases have also been found in Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Britain, France, Italy and Germany.

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Old 07-25-2013, 03:54 PM
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Coronavirus: Polls Show Support for MERS Travel Screening
July 24, 2013 — Little is known about a SARS-like virus that has infected people in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, but there is strong support around the globe for screening travelers to prevent the spread of the disease, according to a new poll.
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An Ipsos online survey of more than 19,000 people in 24 countries showed that fewer than half of people questioned knew much about the disease known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, or MERS, which has infected 88 people and killed 45 people. Although awareness is low, most people said they are concerned about how prepared their nations are and would alter travel plans to avoid countries where cases have been reported. "The two important things about this research are that it (MERS) is not at a level yet where it is on a lot of people's radar screens," said John Wright, a senior vice president at the global polling company Ipsos. "The world isn't panicking over this," he added in an interview, "but they want to know that officials are taking steps to deal with it."

More than 80 percent of people questioned in developed countries said inbound travelers from countries with cases of MERS should be screened for the illness. The number rose to 90 percent in less industrialized countries. Support was highest in China, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, where the illness has been reported, and Italy, which has also been affected, as well as in Australia, Canada and Argentina. Awareness about how to prevent infection was also low in many countries.

Last week the World Health Organization (WHO) reported six new cases of MERS in United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, including five health workers and one person who had been in contact with an infected person. The illness, which can cause fever, coughing and pneumonia, has also surfaced in Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Britain, France, and Germany. Travel was also a big concern with the majority of people questioned in the poll saying they would cancel or delay travel to a country affected by the illness.

The WHO has said the illness has not reached the level of a pandemic and may just die out. So far it has not recommended restrictions on travel. The global health organization said it is drawing up advice on travel in relation to coronavirus. "Clearly travel is going to be affected the most as a priority for people to look into," said Wright. Ipsos conducted the poll from June 4 to 18, questioning about 500 or 1,000 people in each country. A poll of 1,000 is accurate of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points and one of 500 to plus or minus 5.0.

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Old 07-26-2013, 11:28 AM
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MERS virus may be deadlier than SARS, study finds
July 26, 2013 > The new respiratory virus that emerged in the Middle East last year appears to make people sicker faster than SARS, but doesn't seem to spread as easily, according to the latest detailed look at about four dozen cases in Saudi Arabia.
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Since last September, the World Health Organization has confirmed 90 cases of MERS, the Middle East respiratory syndrome, including 45 deaths. Most cases have been in Saudi Arabia, but the mysterious virus has also been identified in countries including Jordan, Qatar, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Tunisia. MERS is related to SARS and the two diseases have similar symptoms including a fever, cough and muscle pain. "At the moment, the virus is still confined (to the Middle East)," said Dr. Christian Drosten of the University of Bonn Medical Centre in Germany, who wrote an accompanying commentary. "But this is a coronavirus and we know coronaviruses are able to cause pandemics."

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that mostly cause respiratory infections like the common cold, but it also includes SARS, the virus that killed about 800 people in a 2003 global outbreak. MERS is distantly related to SARS but there are major differences between the two. Unlike SARS, MERS can cause rapid kidney failure and doesn't seem as infectious. Drosten said the upcoming hajj in October -- where millions of Muslim pilgrims will visit Saudi Arabia, where the virus is still spreading -- is worrisome. On Thursday, WHO said in a statement that the risk of an individual traveler to Mecca catching MERS was considered "very low." The agency does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions or entry screening for the hajj.

In the latest study, researchers found 42 of the 47 cases in Saudi Arabia needed intensive care. Of those, 34 patients deteriorated so badly within a week they needed a breathing machine. That was up to five days earlier than was the case with SARS. Most of the MERS cases were in older men with underlying health problems, as one of the biggest outbreaks was among dialysis patients at several hospitals. The research was published Friday in the journal, Lancet Infectious Diseases. Ali Zumla, one of the paper's co-authors and a professor of infectious diseases at University College London, said in an email that the rapid deterioration of patients was "not worrying at all since the numbers are small" and most of the patients had other health problems.

Drosten, however, said that could be bad news. "That could mean the virus is more virulent and that (doctors) have a smaller window of opportunity to intervene and treat patients," he said. Detecting MERS fast could be a problem since quick diagnostic tests aren't available. Last week, WHO declared there was not yet enough evidence to classify MERS as a public health emergency after setting up an emergency committee to keep a closer eye on the virus. Zumla said it was "very unlikely" that MERS would ignite a pandemic. He noted officials were increasingly picking up mild cases of the disease, suggesting reported cases were only the tip of the iceberg. Identifying more mild or asymptomatic cases could indicate the virus is more widespread, but it's unclear if those infected people might be able to spread the disease further.

MERS also appears to be mainly affecting men; nearly 80 percent of the cases in the new study were men. Drosten said there might be a cultural explanation for that. "Women in the (Middle East) region tend to have their mouths covered with at least two layers of cloth," he said, referring to the veils worn by women in Saudi Arabia. "If the coronavirus is being spread by droplets, (the veils) should give women some protection." Scientists still haven't pinpointed the source of MERS and theories have ranged from animals like goats and camels to dates infected with bat excrement. WHO says the virus is capable of spreading between people but how exactly how that happens -- via coughing, sneezing or indirect physical contact -- isn't known.


Read more: MERS virus may be deadlier than SARS, study finds | Fox News
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Old 08-08-2013, 11:08 PM
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Mers coronavirus: Dromedary camels could be source
8 August 2013 > Dromedary camels could be responsible for passing to humans the deadly Mers coronavirus that emerged last year, research suggests.
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Tests have shown the Mers (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) virus, or one that is very closely related, has been circulating in the animals, offering a potential route for the spread. The study is published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases. But the scientists say more research is needed to confirm the findings. The Mers coronavirus first emerged in the Middle East last year. So far, there have been 94 confirmed cases and 46 deaths. While there has been evidence of the virus spreading between humans, most case are thought to have been caused by contact with an animal. But until now, scientists have struggled to work out which one.

'Smoking gun'

To investigate, an international team looked at blood samples taken from livestock animals, including camels, sheep, goats and cows, from a number of different countries. They tested them for antibodies - the proteins produced to fight infections - which can remain in the blood long after a virus has gone. Professor Marion Koopmans, from the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment and Erasmus University in The Netherlands, said: "We did find antibodies that we think are specific for the Mers coronavirus or a virus that looks very similar to the Mers coronavirus in dromedary camels."

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Researchers say further investigation is needed

The team found low levels of antibodies in 15 out of 105 camels from the Canary Islands and high levels in each of the 50 camels tested in Oman, suggesting the virus was circulating more recently. "Antibodies point to exposure at some time in the life of those animals," Prof Koopmans explained. No human cases of the Mers virus have been reported in Oman or the Canary Islands, and the researchers say they now need to test more widely to see if the infection is present elsewhere. This would include taking samples from camels in Saudi Arabia, the country where the virus is the most prevalent.

'Priority search'

Prof Koopmans said: "It is a smoking gun, but it is not definitive proof." Commenting on the research, Professor Paul Kellam from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge and University College London, said the research was helping to narrow down the hunt for the source of the virus. But he told BBC News: "The definitive proof would be to isolate the virus from an infected animal or to be able to sequence and characterise the genome from an infected animal." Health officials say confirming where the virus comes from is a priority. Data suggests that it is not yet infectious enough to pose a global threat and is still at a stage were its spread could be halted.

BBC News - Mers coronavirus: Dromedary camels could be source
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Old 08-23-2013, 01:55 AM
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Mers coronavirus has been isolated in a bat in Saudi Arabia...
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Mers: Deadly coronavirus found in tomb bat
22 August 2013 > The deadly Mers coronavirus has been isolated in a bat in Saudi Arabia, scientists report.
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The virus was detected in a faecal sample taken from an Egyptian tomb bat, collected close to the home of the first known Mers victim. The research is published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. But while scientists found a genetic match, they think it is unlikely that bats are responsible for passing the virus to humans. Instead they think the virus is spreading from the winged mammals to other animals before it is reaching people. Another piece of research was recently published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, which suggested that this intermediary animal could be the dromedary camel. However, only antibodies - the proteins produced to fight infections - were detected in camels, rather than the virus itself, and more work needs to be done to confirm this finding.

'Identical sequence'

The Mers coronavirus first emerged in the Middle East last year. So far, there have been 94 confirmed cases and 47 deaths. While the virus has been spreading between humans, most cases are thought to have been caused by contact with an animal. But scientists have struggled to work out which one. In October 2012 and April 2013, researchers collected samples taken from different bat species found close to the home of the first known victim of Mers. These were sent to Columbia University in New York. However, the first batch was opened at US customs, and thawed to room temperature. The April batch arrived intact. Of the 1,000 samples collected, only one taken from the Egyptian tomb bat contained any signs of the virus. Dr Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity from Columbia University and a co-author of the study, said: "In this case we have a virus in an animal that is identical in sequence to the virus found in the first human case."

Narrowing hunt

The finding suggests that bats could be the origin of the disease, but scientists are looking for another animal that is involved in its spread. Samples taken from camels, sheep, goats and cattle are now being analysed. Commenting on the research, Prof Jonathan Ball, a virologist from the University of Nottingham, said: "We have long suspected that bats are likely to be the original source of Mers. They've been around for millions of years and have picked up a lot of viruses on the way - bats are a source of lots of human virus infections, like Ebola, henipahvirus, rabies and Sars. "But there are still some crucial unknowns. They sequenced a very small part of the virus genome - and a highly conserved part at that. We would need to see more extensive analysis involving other more variable genes before we can definitively say the viruses are related.

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The sample was found in a faecal sample taken from an Egyptian tomb bat

"Even if this proves to be the case, bats are unlikely to be the source of the continuing Mers outbreaks. Humans and bats just don't interact very much. It's much more likely that an intermediate animal is involved - and finding out what this animal is is key if we are to eradicate this virus before it becomes a bigger problem." Prof Ian Jones from the University of Reading added: "The surprising overall message is that the bats of (Saudi Arabia) are not awash in the virus, quite the opposite as only one example was found and that appeared to be incomplete. "The main reservoir for this virus and how it gets to infect people remains unclear at this stage."

BBC News - Mers: Deadly coronavirus found in tomb bat
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Fast moving snails spread deadly dog disease across UK
22 August 2013 > Despite their lethargic reputations, snails can travel at a relatively speedy one metre per hour, say researchers.
Quote:
By attaching multicoloured LED lights, the scientists were able to track their movements over a 24-hour period. The gastropods were fast enough to explore the length of an average UK garden in a single night. But scientists are worried that the fast moving snails are spreading a parasite that is deadly for dogs. Over the past few years the wet summers enjoyed across the UK have proved the ideal breeding grounds for snails. According to the Royal Horticultural Society, their numbers increased by 50% last year. As well as being a pest for gardeners, snails can also spread a parasite called Angiostrongylus vasorum. This lungworm is a particular threat to dogs, which can become infected by accidentally eating slugs or snails which they come across in the garden or on dog toys.

Painted snails

To assess the scale of the threat, researchers at the University of Exeter decided to track the movements of snails in garden situations. To do this they attached tiny, multicoloured LED lights to the backs of some 450 snails and used UV paint to track their movements. The researchers found that the snails could cover distances up to 25 metres in a 24-hour period. "They are so slow that people don't even think about them moving, but it turns out they do, and they can go a long way in a night," said Dr Dave Hodgson, who lead this study and was also involved in a BBC amateur science experiment in 2010 that sought to discover if snails had a homing instinct.

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The lungworm parasite can be fatal in dogs and researchers say it is spreading across the UK

The researchers say their new work indicates that snails pose a growing threat to pets. "They are not just lettuce munchers, they are carriers of parasites that can kill your dogs," said Dr Hodgson, A recent survey of veterinary surgeons indicated that the lungworm parasite was now endemic across the UK, where once it was mainly found in the south. "It is becoming a real problem not just in the south of England, it is moving north to Scotland," said Dr Hodgson. "It is a national problem and we all have to pay attention to the interactions between dogs and snails," he said.

Happy trails

In the new work, the scientists were surprised to see so many snails followed the slimy trails laid by others. Dr Hodgson says it is all about conserving energy. "We know that snails use about 40% of their energy budget producing slime. "Given a chance, a snail will prefer to follow a trail that has been laid by another, it is a form of cheating like slipstreaming," he said. As to what pet owners should do, the scientists suggested they should regularly check the nooks and crannies in their gardens for snails and try to reduce exposure to the species. "I wouldn't be too happy suggesting that there should be a snail apocalypse and everyone should get rid of them," said Dr Hodgson. "I think awareness is a better idea, people need to understand the wildlife in their gardens and that no organism is totally harmless."

BBC News - Fast moving snails spread deadly dog disease across UK
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Old 04-15-2014, 08:04 PM
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MERS running rampant in Mid-east...
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Deadly Virus Surges Through Gulf States
April 14, 2014: WASHINGTON — Saudi Arabia says a deadly virus is rippling through the kingdom as additional cases were reported over the weekend in the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
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Confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, have been seen at two major hospitals in the port city of Jeddah. Saudi health authorities are embarking on a variety of measures to prevent further spread of the 18-month-long outbreak. “We have detected 11 cases of (the virus) in Jeddah,” said Dr. Abdul Salam Noorwali, director-general of health in the Makkah region, told Arab News last week. “Two of the patients have died, while six others have been cured and three cases are under medication,” he said.​ Three of the patients in Jeddah were health workers, including one of the two who died, prompting authorities to temporarily shut down the emergency ward at the city's King Fahd Hospital, the kingdom's English-language daily reported.

Sami BaDawood, Jeddah’s health affairs director, told Arab News that the emergency department was closed for disinfection after one health worker there tested positive for the virus and subsequent tests on other staff members showed further infections. Some patients were transferred to other hospitals while the disinfection was carried out, he said. The latest figures bring to at least 179 the number of cases of MERS in Saudi Arabia since the virus first appeared in the kingdom in September 2012. Makkah Governor Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah met with the director-general of health and urged precautionary measures to combat the disease at hospitals and other health facilities, Arab News reported. “We have to adopt health measures to ensure the safety of citizens and residents from the virus and educate the public on how to protect themselves from MERS,” the English daily quoted him as telling health officials in the region.

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Most people infected with MERS develop severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The MERS virus is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus that erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died. The World Health Organization said at the end of March there were 206 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS infection worldwide, of which 86 had been fatal. In April, WHO says, 15 more cases were confirmed in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. "Basically what MERS does at the end of the day is shutting down the lungs and cause the other organs to fail," Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesperson in Geneva told VOA. "It is spreads from person to person with great difficulty and that is how it is different from SARS," Hartl said. "What we really need doctors to do if they see unusual respiratory illness comes to them in other parts of the world is to be aware that MERS has occurred and they should test for that virus."

Experts are still struggling to understand the disease, for which there is no known vaccine. “We don’t know for certain where the virus came from,” said Jason McDonald, spokesperson for U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC). “However, it likely came from an animal source.” MERS has been found in camels in Qatar and a bat in Saudi Arabia. Camels in a few neighboring countries have also tested positive for antibodies to MERS, indicating they were previously infected with MERS or a closely related virus. More information is needed to identify the possible role that camels, bats, and other animals may play in the transmission of MERS.

That is why the CDC is closely monitoring the MERS situation and working with World Health Organization and other partners to understand the risks of this virus. The CDC says it recognizes the potential for the virus to spread further and cause more cases and clusters globally, including in the United States. “As part of routine public health preparedness in the United States, CDC is providing MERS testing kits to state health departments across the U.S. and continues to provide advice and laboratory diagnostic support to countries in the Arabian Peninsula and surrounding region.” McDonald said. According to CDC, cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Tunisia as well as in several countries in Europe.

Deadly Virus Surges Through Gulf States
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Old 05-03-2014, 09:54 PM
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MERS cases almost double in Saudi Arabia...
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Saudi Arabia Finds 26 More Cases of MERS, Egypt Reports First Sufferer
May 01, 2014 — Saudi Arabia said on Thursday the total number of cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), an often deadly new disease, had nearly doubled in the kingdom in April with 26 more infections reported on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Quote:
The first case of the disease in Egypt was also reported on Thursday, in a 27-year-old man who lives in Saudi Arabia but returned ill to Egypt last week after having been in contact with an uncle in the kingdom who died of MERS. International concern about the disease is acute because Saudi Arabia is expected to receive large numbers of foreign pilgrims during the fasting month of Ramadan in July, followed by millions more for Islam's annual haj pilgrimage in October. Although the WHO has said the disease, from the same family as the SARS virus, is difficult to pass between humans, most of the cases reported in Saudi Arabia so far appear to have been transmitted between people rather than from animals.

A team of WHO experts has arrived in Saudi Arabia and is working with authorities on boosting infection control measures, particularly in hospitals, and studying how the virus spreads. Seven of the new cases were in Jeddah, four in Mecca, 10 in Riyadh, two in the northern town of Tabuk and one each in Hafr al-Batin near Kuwait and Najran near Yemen. Two people, who had previously been confirmed as suffering from the disease, died. The new cases have taken the total number of confirmed infections in Saudi Arabia to 371, a jump of 89 percent during the month of April. Most of the new infections last month came in an outbreak in three hospitals in Jeddah. Of people who caught the disease in Saudi Arabia, 107 have died since it was identified two years ago.

But health experts believe the initial source of transmission was from an animal reservoir, probably camels. On Tuesday, acting health minister Adel Fakeih said Saudis should avoid close contact with camels or consuming their raw milk or meat. Traders and other people at Riyadh's camel market on Monday told Reuters they had not been officially notified or warned about the likely connection between MERS and camels and had been taking no extra precautions such as increased hand washing. The WHO said last week it was advisable to be careful around camels, and international infection experts have been pointing to the link between the animals and the disease for months.

Although Saudi Arabia and the WHO have advised very old people, children and those suffering long-term disease to delay their haj this year because of MERS, they have stopped short of imposing other restrictions such as on visa numbers. Countries including Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Tunisia as well as several countries in Europe have reported MERS cases since the virus emerged. The World Health Organization announced the Egyptian case on its website, saying it was the first laboratory-confirmed case of MERS reported by authorities there. It said the 27-year-old man was in stable condition.

Saudi Arabia Finds 26 More Cases of MERS, Egypt Reports First Sufferer
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US Confirms First MERS Case
May 02, 2014 ~ The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has confirmed the first case of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Virus, or MERS, within the United States.
Quote:
CDC officials Friday said an American health care worker who recently traveled to Saudi Arabia has been hospitalized with the virus in the midwestern state of Indiana. They say the patient has been isolated and is in stable condition. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases director Anne Schuchat said the case is rapidly evolving, and that the CDC is working to identify people who may have been in contact with the patient. Schuchat said the patient traveled from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on April 24 to London, and then on to Indiana.

The MERS virus first appeared in September 2012, and all of the cases have been linked to six countries in the Arabian peninsula. Saudi Arabia has seen the most cases. Schuchat said around 400 people have tested positive for the disease since it first appeared, and that about one-third of those people have died from the virus.

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MERS is a member of the coronavirus family, which includes germs that cause the common cold, as well as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. SARS popped up in southern China in 2003, infected about 8,000 people in 29 countries and killed about 800 before it was contained.

A spike in MERS cases in Saudi Arabia that began last week has raised worries among health experts that the virus has mutated into a more spreadable form. Schuchat said the reason for the increase is not yet known. It is not yet clear where MERS came from originally, but camels are the lead suspects.

US Confirms First MERS Case
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Media always make things sound worse. Trust me, nobody even talks about it there, leave alone worrying about it.
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Old 05-08-2014, 03:09 AM
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Another 18 MERS cases turns up in Saudi Arabia...
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Saudi Arabia finds another 18 MERS cases as disease spreads
Thu May 8, 2014 - Saudi Arabia has identified 18 new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), it said late on Wednesday, pushing the total number of infections in the country so far to 449.
Quote:
Four people died from the disease on Wednesday, taking the total death toll in Saudi Arabia to 121 since MERS, a form of coronavirus, was identified two years ago, the Health Ministry said in a statement on its website. The rate of infection in Saudi Arabia has surged in recent weeks after big outbreaks associated with hospitals in Jeddah and Riyadh. The total number of infections nearly doubled in April and has risen by a further 21 percent already in May.

The World Health Organisation said on Wednesday the hospital outbreaks had been partly due to "breaches" in recommended infection prevention and control measures, but added that there was no evidence of a change in the virus's ability to spread. Scientists around the world have been searching for the animal source, or reservoir, of MERS virus infections ever since the first human cases were confirmed in September 2012. In humans, MERS cause coughing, fever and pneumonia. Cases have so far been reported in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Oman, Tunisia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Britain.

Eight of the new cases were in Jeddah, five in the capital Riyadh, one in Najran. There were three new cases in Medina and one in Mecca, two cities that receive large influxes of Muslim pilgrims from around the country and overseas. Half of them were in contact with people who had previously been diagnosed as having MERS, the ministry said.

Saudi Arabia finds another 18 MERS cases as disease spreads | Reuters
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Old 05-13-2014, 02:20 PM
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2nd case of MERS in the US...
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Saudi Arabia reports 5 more deaths from MERS
13 May`14 — Another five people in Saudi Arabia have died after contracting a potentially fatal Middle Eastern respiratory virus that has sickened hundreds in the kingdom, according to health officials.
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The Saudi Health Ministry provided the death toll in its latest update on the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome on Monday evening, saying that the deaths occurs in the capital Riyadh and the western cities of Jiddah and Medina. Two of those who died were among eight new confirmed infections in the three cities, while the other three had been previously diagnosed.

A total of 147 people have died and 491 have been confirmed to have contracted the virus in Saudi Arabia since it was discovered in 2012. Most cases of the disease have been in the desert kingdom. American health officials this week confirmed a second U.S. case of MERS. The virus was confirmed in a resident of Saudi Arabia who was visiting Florida. He is being treated in an Orlando hospital. An earlier, unlinked U.S. patient diagnosed with MERS was released from an Indiana hospital late last week.

MERS is part of the coronavirus family of viruses, which includes the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which killed some 800 people in a global outbreak in 2003. MERS can cause symptoms including fever, breathing problems, pneumonia and kidney failure. Scientists believe camels likely play a role in initial infections. The disease can then spread between people, but typically only when they are in close contact with one another, such as with infected patients and health-care workers.

Saudi Arabia reports 5 more deaths from MERS
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