Thursday, December 11, 2014

A MERS-CoV epidemic is unlikely

A recently published article in the Journal of Infectious Disease by Saad et al weighs epidemiological factors in its determination that Middle East respiratory virus (MERS-CoV) will likely not escalate to epidemic status. 

MERS is, however, classified, as an "emerging" virus. The first case of the virus surface in 2012, and since the virus has made its way around the globe, including cases noted in North America. The fatality rate of the disease currently hovers around 40%. However, it is worth noting that >97% of MERS-CoV cases have been localized to the Middle East. 

The researchers in the article used the case study of how the Sultanate of Oman, which had not seen any prior cases of MERS responded to and successfully contained the spread of the virus in their country, to demonstrate that MERS-CoV would likely not explode into an epidemic. 

One potential "benefit" of MERS (if it can be called that) is its propensity to land victims in the ICU almost immediately. Though this suggests life-threatening emergency, about 50% of the time, patients fully recover, and importantly, if people are in the ICU within days of the contracting the disease, they have fewer opportunities to infect those around them. In contrast, illnesses could have long, asymptomatic incubation periods that enable the transmission of the disease to a huge number of people. Moreover, the study indicates that only one healthcare worker and no other patients contracted MERS from those who were in the ICU being treated for the virus. 

Another point made by the study was the fact that fighting MERS is often a long, drawn-out battle involving weeks to months of treatment. 

-Shubha Raghvendra


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