This week, MERS has popped up in Bahrain, Quatar, Saudi Arabia, and … Korea?
Korean patient zero is thought to be a 68-year old male who traveled to Bahrain on a business trip between April 18th and May 3rd. He visited a hospital before it was known that he was infected, and he infected a 76-year old man. As a result, the hospital quarantined 64 workers. The public health authorities of nearby countries, including Taiwan and Thailand, are on high alert for the virus, although they have not found any cases yet.
True to its name, MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) primarily resides in the Middle East, but back in 2012, it has a massive outbreak that killed about 400 people in Europe, the Middle East, and in East Asia (it spread to North America but nobody there died). (http://www.who.int/csr/disease/coronavirus_infections/MERSCov_WHO_KSA_Mission_Jun13_.pdf). The first recorded case in this current outbreak occurred in a 29-year old man in Qatar who transported camels in his truck for a living (which makes sense since camels are a known reservoir of MERS). The camels he was transporting at the time he was diagnosed all tested positive for MERS-CoV. Most of the other cases in Saudi Arabia have been in middle-aged or older individuals. Currently, 9 individuals are receiving treatment for MERS, and another is in home quarantine.
The true origin of this outbreak may have been as early as February, when 3 middle-aged men and one middle-aged woman were infected, and the WHO called the country out for not doing a better job of containing the virus. While these numbers don’t seem like much of an outbreak, MERS has a mortality rate of about 27% (http://www.who.int/csr/disease/coronavirus_infections/faq/en/).