In 2015, when German health officials were worried about an emerging pathogen called the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), they reported a few cases, most of them among people who had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia. By last summer, however, they had confirmed that there were new cases from a new area of Qatar – and this was the first time that a Middle Eastern nation had recorded an outbreak. They also knew that most of the cases were involving an alarming patient known as “AQ1”, who had a very high level of latency. (That means that most of the disease had not yet appeared; it’s like a cancer patient who has metastasized a few centimeters beneath the skin but keeps leaking fluids.) But the toll could have been far higher.

German authorities needed to confirm the infection. When the only test they could use was a blood test and proved inconclusive, many were concerned that the disease was underestimated. When they then could use only a stool sample test, again inconclusive, many worried that the case could turn out to be not only misdiagnosed but also a vicious misconception of a deadly new disease. And the case raised more alarm because the patient had only just begun speaking again and had just regained “good health” at the end of last summer.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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