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New MERS scare; Animal hosts infecting humans several times

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 22nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Health experts have expressed growing concern about MERS, or Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome as it bears resemblance to SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. SARS caused a world epidemic in 2003, infecting around 8,000 and killing 800, or one in every 10. Even more worrisome is there is growing evidence that animals carry the disease - who go on to infect humans several times over.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A new study has confirmed that animals have infected humans with the MERS virus several times. Two months ago, scientists had reported that the virus was found in camels, but could not confirm it was the original source. A team has since published a month ago, confirming bats in Saudi Arabia were the first source of MERS.

The World Health Organization last year reported at least 90 infections and 44 deaths, or one in every two. The United Nations was originally hesitant for fear of causing panic and only said it could cause a pandemic.

While not much is known about MERS, appearing on the world scene just over a year ago, doctors have noticed it has killed mostly people who are already weakened by diseases. MERS can still kill perfectly healthy people, however.

"All cases have been directly or indirectly linked to one of four countries in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates), with most cases (90 cases and 44 deaths) reported from Saudi Arabia," the report reads. The research team was led by Matthew Cotton, of Britain's Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Ziad Memish of the Saudi health ministry.

Published the medical journal the Lancet, the report notes that "Human-to-human transmission of MERS has been documented in England, France, Tunisia, Italy, and Saudi Arabia."

While doctors now know where the original source came from, it is still unclear how people became infected, or when. Camels have been discovered to carry the virus and the bats that originally carried MERS could have also infected other animals, as could have the camels.

Some patients showed signs of being infected more than once from different sources, further complicating how people can contract the virus.

Hajj, coming from October 13-18, the outbreak is causing concern for Saudi officials. Hajj is a mass pilgrimage to the Saudi city of Mecca by Muslims from all over. The Saudi government has asked the elderly, pregnant women, children under 12 and those with chronic illnesses not to make the trip. The U.S. government has made similar warnings to American Muslims.

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