MERS COMMENT: Dr Ben Neuman says catching and quarantining infected people remains the most effective way to stop the spread of MERS, but spotting the disease early is not easy
Release Date 13 May 2014
Dr Ben Neuman, virologist and coronavirus expert from the University of Reading, said:
With the US confirming a second ‘imported' case of MERS earlier today the latest news from the WHO could be significant.
"There is already limited screening at airports, but it's possible WHO could call for increased surveillance at airports with officials on the lookout for fevers and coughs in people flying from the Middle East. However there is no guarantee such precautions will work. Although catching and quarantining infected people remains the most effective way to stop the spread of MERS, although signs of infection in the early stages of the disease can be subtle and difficult to spot.
"MERS is a serious lung infection caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. While the death rate from MERS has declined from around 60% at the start of the epidemic in 2012 to half that rate today, it remains three times as deadly as its infamous cousin, the SARS virus. The body can fight MERS more successfully by attacking its own cells once they become infected. However, the damage takes a long time to repair, and if too much of the lung is being repaired at one time, there is not enough room for air and the patient can effectively suffocate or suffer organ failure.
"MERS has been taking its heaviest toll on the health care system. To date roughly one fifth of the people infected have been health care workers and the virus even caused a major hospital in Jeddah to temporarily close its emergency room. While MERS does not seem to spread well between people, and has infected fewer than one thousand people so far, it is concerning that it seems to spread best in a health care setting."