The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus outbreak in South Korea has led to more than 100 cases and at least 11 deaths, prompting the CDC to urge physicians in the U.S. to update their knowledge of the disease, get their practices ready to treat potential patients, and question patients with suspicious symptoms about recent travel. AAFP member Richard Zimmerman, M.D., an infectious disease expert at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said preparing for MERS-CoV means getting supplies, protocols and plans ready before any potential patients arrive.
An Illinois man who had close contact with one of the two confirmed Middle East respiratory syndrome patients in the U.S. was exposed to the virus but did not develop clinical illness, according to the CDC. He was tested as part of the CDC's effort to identify and test anyone who had contact with the two MERS cases. "It's possible that as the investigation continues, others may also test positive for the MERS-CoV infection but not get sick," said Dr. David Swerdlow, the head of the CDC's MERS response team.
Camels can be infected by the deadly Middle East respiratory syndrome virus, known as MERS, scientists say, lending credence to the theory that the animals may be a source of the outbreak among humans. The outbreak has killed at least 71 people since emerging last year. Dutch and Qatar researchers using gene-sequencing to show that three camels were infected with MERS on a Qatar farm where two people were also infected. "This is definitive proof that camels can be infected with MERS-CoV, but based on the current data we cannot conclude whether the humans on the farm were infected by the camels or vice versa," said study leader Bart Haagmans of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam.
Officials in Saudi Arabia have confirmed that Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus was identified in a camel that belonged to a man infected with the potentially fatal pathogen. Bats have been implicated in the zoonotic transmission pathway, but scientists had postulated that another species was involved as well. MERS antibodies had been seen in camels but not the virus itself. In a related development, Spanish public health officials have reported the first case of MERS in Spain.
The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus has been identified in a fecal sample collected from an Egyptian tomb bat, and the sample is a 100% genetic match to the virus isolated from the first human case of the deadly disease, identifying bats as one apparent link in the emergence of MERS. Researchers believe an intermediary animal was likely responsible for passing the virus from bats to humans, and they are looking at samples from other animals including camels, sheep, goats and cattle.