Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus infected more than 200 people in April alone
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
Behind the news that the United States has had its first case of the deadly respiratory virus known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, or MERS coronavirus, is a far more worrisome trend: Case numbers are exploding on the Arabian Peninsula. As doctors struggle to treat patients, scientists are rushing to answer some basic questions about the virus’s biology, whose answers could stop the virus from becoming a pandemic.
As far as anyone knows, the first human victims of MERS were a university student and a nurse, who both got sick and died in Jordan in the spring of 2012. In the two years between then and March 2014, public health officials recorded an average of 14 or 15 cases per month, for a total of 207 cases. Of those cases, 93 people died, making the mortality rate about 45 percent.
“If you do the math on the mortality rate of the virus and the number of people on the planet, it's scary,” says Ralph Baric, a virologist at the