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Partial success for MERS prevention

Wednesday July 10th, 2019

The number of cases of Middle East Respiratory syndrome coronavirus has fallen worldwide in recent years.

The disease, MERS-CoV, was first discovered in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It is a form of single-stranded RNA virus in the genus Betacoronavirus that is fatal in about 35% of cases.

Infection occurs from direct or indirect contact with dromedary (Arabian) camels. So far it has infected more than 2,442 people in over 21 countries, including the UK, according to the World Health Organisation, which lists it as a potential cause of a future epidemic.

Experts from the WHO together with the University of Oxford, UK, took a look at the statistics on MERS-CoV from laboratory-confirmed human cases reported to the World Health Organisation.

They found that 739 cases were reported in 2014, 768 cases in 2015, 244 cases in 2016, 244 in 2017, and 113 to September 2018.

Professor Christl Donnelly and her team write in the upcoming issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases that, due to concerted efforts, since 2016, “as many as 1,465 cases and 293–520 deaths might have been averted. Efforts to reduce the global MERS threat are working, but countries must maintain vigilance to prevent further infections.”

They add: “Affected countries are reducing the global threat of MERS through addressing knowledge gaps with regard to transmission, enhancing surveillance, and strengthening the ability to detect cases early and contain outbreaks through improved infection prevention and control measures in hospitals.

“More needs to be done to limit spillover infections from dromedaries. The international community and affected countries have a collective and shared responsibility to curtail this major health security threat.”

Donnelly, C. A. et al. Worldwide reduction in MERS cases and deaths since 2016. Emerging Infectious Diseases 7 August 2019; doi: 10.3201/eid2509.190143

Tags: Flu & Viruses | World Health

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