Saudi Arabia is now reporting significantly more deaths (282 so far) from the MERS virus. Yesterday, it sacked its Deputy Health Minister Dr. Ziad Memish without explanation.
This figure (282) is out of 688 total cases; 353 patients have recovered and 53 are still receiving treatment.
What is MERS?
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, or MERS-CoV started spreading since 2012 in Saudi Arabia. As a coronavirus, MERS is in the same group of illnesses as the common cold. But it is much more lethal: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that about 30% of those infected have died.
According to CNN, no one knows exactly where MERS came from, but evidence implicating camels is emerging. In a recently published study in mBio, researchers said they isolated live MERS virus from two single-humped camels, known as dromedaries. They found multiple substrains in the camel viruses, including one that perfectly matches a substrain isolated from a human patient.
Hajj & Umrah visitor numbers may be affected
The MERS may affect the number of Umrah and Hajj visitors to Saudi Arabia this year. Although flights are becoming cheaper, visitor caution is visible. In some cases, issuance of Umrah visas have been stopped till Ramadan.
Domestic Haj pilgrims will be managed through an E-system this year. 53 companies will provide Hajj facilities to local Hajjis. Starting now in Shaaban, the Ministry of Interior is activating an electronic system that allows for early registration of Hajj pilgrims, something which typically starts Dhul Qaadah of each year.
How MERS affects?
Those with MERS have severe acute respiratory illness, including symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some develop more dangerous complications like pneumonia and kidney failure.
There is no vaccine or special treatment.
MERS going global?
MERS has the potential of going global. Cases have also been confirmed in Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia, Egypt, the UK and, most recently, the US.
WHO: FAQs on MERS