Thanks to you, we have extra coverage for the public health emergency the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus (commonly known as MERS-CoV) has caused in humans in the Arabian Peninsula. Coverage will continue until confirmed MERS cases have been eliminated in that region.

Our free coverage focuses on MERS outbreaks in the Arabian Peninsula, in Egypt, at international airports, and in Saudi Arabia.

Editorial Remarks by Zhang Xuezhong, World Health Organization Representative to the United Arab Emirates:

“MERS-CoV is primarily spread through close human contact, like between camels and humans, and in animals, such as domestic cattle, pigs, and wild animals such as camels, other members of their species, and birds. It does not spread from person to person. MERS is therefore not an airborne virus and will only cause severe illness in people with existing health conditions.

The causes of MERS-CoV infection vary: It may be triggered by a viral protein that is found on respiratory secretions, or transmitted via aerosol droplets. The incubation period of the virus from infection to onset of symptoms can range from one to 21 days. Symptoms of MERS-CoV are fever, cough, headache, shortness of breath, and pneumonia. Shortness of breath may be diagnosed early in the early stage of infection when patients are otherwise healthy.

The earliest known appearance of MERS-CoV was reported in humans in 2012. MERS-CoV infection has spread from human to human since that time.

Since the start of 2016, there have been around 2,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection, primarily in Saudi Arabia, where there have been over 650 cases of severe illness and more than 900 deaths.

We must assess the extent of the outbreak and its impact on human health. There is evidence of significant human to human transmission of MERS-CoV in the Arabian Peninsula, with significant trends in the number of infections since 2012.

Information sharing from affected nations to global health institutions like WHO is critical. Given the current levels of investigation and subsequent investigation, we expect WHO will have a significant impact on understanding the early stages of the epidemic, even before any decisive efforts to halt the disease.”

Editorial Remarks by Dr. Marcus Plescia, Director, Division of Global Disease Prevention and Control, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

“Recent disease outbreaks of coronavirus are a wake-up call that we must intensify our efforts to contain the virus. International travel and international trade are facilitated by cross-border legal systems that can pose a public health risk by sharing infectious diseases, including coronaviruses, across countries and continents. We are called to build international partnerships to effectively respond to this latest public health threat and take every precaution to prevent further outbreaks.”

An additional editorial, “Running low on resources: How a global approach can help,” is available here.