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New SARS Virus: MERS-CoV

Posted on June 26 2013

A new virus in the same family as SARS has been found for the first time in humans. This new virus has infected 49 people so far, 27 of whom passed away. Although, this new virus has been found in the Middle East, it has been detected in eight countries - Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Tunisia and the United Kingdom.

What is the SARS-Like Virus?

This new virus is a part of a family called coronaviruses, which can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), and a variety of animal diseases. However, this new virus is not specifically the SARS we’ve experienced before.

Previously, the virus was called the “novel coronavirus” or nCOV. Recently, the World Health Organization gave it a new name:  Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Conornavirus or “MERS.”

According to the CDC, MERS-CoV acts like a cold and attacks the respiratory system. Symptoms can include severe fever and cough and can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure. Other symptoms, including gastrointestinal issues, have also been reported.

Should you be concerned about Mers-CoV?

Of the 49 cases of MERS-CoV that have been reported, it was mostly found in older men with health problems. Also, most of that group contracted the virus in the Middle East. However, some cases have been reported in the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Tunisia by those who had close contact with someone who recently returned from the Middle East.

If you have not been to the Arabian Peninsula, your chances of contracting MERS are less than 1% or even zero. Those who have traveled to the Middle East and are experiencing cold-like symptoms that are getting worse - including difficulty breathing and a fever - you may want to see your doctor, just to be sure. If you know you may have been contaminated, or might be in the future, protect yourself and others with some face masks and hand sanitizer.

Over the past 10 years, a lot has been learned about the new coronavirsuses by studying the SARS virus. Research on the new MERS virus is in full effect and the WHO and the CDC are pushing for more difinitive answers to treatment and vaccines soon.

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