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New York Times Examines Efforts To Trace MERS Virus Origin

The New York Times reports on researchers’ efforts to trace the origin of the coronavirus causing Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). “The virus, first detected [in Saudi Arabia] last year, is known to have infected at least 77 people, killing 40 of them, in eight countries,” the newspaper writes, adding, “As the case count climbs, critical questions about MERS remain unanswered. Scientists do not know where it came from, where the virus exists in nature, why it has appeared now, how people are being exposed to it, or whether it is becoming more contagious and could erupt into a much larger outbreak, as SARS did.” According to the newspaper, “The disease almost certainly originated with one or more people contracting the virus from animals — probably bats — but scientists do not know how many times that kind of spillover to humans has occurred, or how likely it is to keep happening.” The newspaper details the emergence of the virus, quoting a number of emerging diseases experts, and discusses efforts to catch and test bats in Saudi towns near where cases of MERS were reported. “The team has also tested camels, goats, sheep and cats, which might act as intermediate hosts, picking up the virus from bats and then infecting people,” the newspaper notes (Grady, 7/1).