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MERS Virus Easily Transmitted In Health Care Environments, Study Says

“The new Middle East coronavirus that has killed 38 people after emerging late last year is a serious risk in hospitals because it is easily transmitted in health care environments, infectious disease experts said on Wednesday,” Reuters reports. “In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers said the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) was not only easily transmitted from patient to patient, but also from the transfer of sick patients to other hospitals,” the news service writes (Kelland, 6/19). “The report was prepared by a large international team with members from Saudi Arabia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States,” CIDRAP News notes (Roos, 6/19). The “international team of doctors who investigated nearly two dozen cases in eastern Saudi Arabia found the new coronavirus has some striking similarities to SARS,” the Associated Press writes (Cheng, 6/19). “The incubation period of the virus — the time between exposure and development of symptoms — was similar to SARS, about five days,” according to the Washington Post (Kim, 6/19).

However, “[w]hile [MERS] belongs to the same family of viruses as the one responsible for SARS, it appears far less transmissible than the earlier pathogen, the WHO has said,” Bloomberg Businessweek writes (Bennett/Carey, 6/19). “The SARS virus is thought to have originated with bats, and scientists suspected that the same might be true of MERS, and that people might have contracted it from eating dates that had been contaminated by bats,” the New York Times notes. “But so far, no bats or any other animals have been found to be infected, according to Dr. Alimuddin I. Zumla, an author of the study and a professor of infectious diseases and international health at University College London Medical School,” the newspaper adds (Grady, 6/19). “Globally, [MERS] has sickened 64 people and killed 38 since September, 32 of which have been in Saudi Arabia, according to the [WHO],” Bloomberg Businessweek notes in a separate article (Bennett, 6/19). “Eleven cases of the virus have been detected in France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. among people who traveled to the Middle East, or who have had contact with someone who has, suggesting that more imported cases can be expected,” according to the report, the news service notes in another article (Bennett, 6/19).