MERS May Be More Contagious, Deadly Than SARS

Last week, I blogged about the World Health Organization having urged health workers around the world to be on the alert for symptoms of the deadly Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or MERS.

(Editor’s note: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refers to the virus as MERS-CoV)

This morning, I came across a worrisome Associated Press piece on the FOX News website. The AP reports:

A mysterious new respiratory virus that originated in the Middle East spreads easily between people and appears more deadly than SARS, doctors reported Wednesday after investigating the biggest outbreak in Saudi Arabia.

More than 60 cases of what is now called MERS, including 38 deaths, have been recorded by the World Health Organization in the past year, mostly in Saudi Arabia. So far, illnesses haven’t spread as quickly as SARS did in 2003, ultimately triggering a global outbreak that killed about 800 people.

An international team of doctors who investigated nearly two dozen cases in eastern Saudi Arabia found the new coronavirus has some striking similarities to SARS. Unlike SARS, though, scientists remain baffled as to the source of MERS.

The team of doctors published a report about the MERS cases on June 19 on The New England Journal of Medicine website. In “Hospital Outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus,” the physicians noted:

Acute viral respiratory tract infections cause considerable morbidity and mortality and pose a risk of outbreaks in health care settings. We describe a cluster of MERS-CoV infections and report health care–associated human-to-human transmission of MERS-CoV. The 65% case fatality rate in this outbreak is of concern.

Not only did the team find MERS spread easily among humans and within hospitals in the cases they investigated, but that 65 percent death rate was much higher than for SARS back in 2003, in which 9 to 12 percent of those diagnosed perished, even when taking into consideration people over 65, where the SARS death rate was higher than 50% (source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).

Keep an eye on this deadly, pandemic-potential virus.

You can read the entire report on the NEJM website here.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (


“Mysterious new MERS virus spreads easily, deadlier than SARS.” Associated Press. 20 June 2013. ( 20 June 2013.

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Thursday, June 20th, 2013 Health, Middle East

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