Although the World Health Organization is predicting no more than a slight increase in new cases of the deadly coronavirus in the coming months, several of the latest developments have been unsettling. Here’s a look at the latest news:
The virus, which is being called the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, killed at least 18 people in Saudi Arabia from September 2015 through January, the latest numbers from the WHO show. While this is well below the fatality rate of SARS in 2003, which was over 40 percent, it’s still a frightening rate.
Recent studies found the virus circulating in poultry, raising concerns about potential markets or places in the Middle East that might serve as hosts for the virus. A few experts told Reuters that they believe the current outbreak started in Jeddah, but there are still no confirmed cases in the capital city, Riyadh.
SARS was first identified in 2003 and claimed the lives of 1,273 people in the first 24 months of the disease, including many health workers. It remains one of the most lethal viruses known to man. SARS now has a sequel, the Arabian Peninsula virus, but the WHO reported that it is less deadly and spreading in ways that are uncharacteristic of the SARS virus. In particular, the virus is spreading among people who are volunteering at clinics with its probable source, camels. This virus has been identified in one patient in Saudi Arabia, and one was likely spread on an airplane last year.
A new analysis of the virus, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, says that it is more drug-resistant than originally thought, but the researchers wrote that, “to date, there is no evidence of community transmission of coronavirus in humans.”