In May 2013, the Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses has published a proposed new designation for the novel coronavirus, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). This name is endorsed by the discoverers of the virus and other researchers that pioneered MERS-CoV studies, by the World Health Organization, and by the Saudi Ministry of Health. Learn more.
The novel coronavirus (NCoV) / MERS-CoV first emerged in the Middle East, and was discovered on September 2012 in a 49 year-old Qatari man with travel history to Saudi Arabia prior to onset of illness. He was transferred to the United Kingdom for treatment, and died of an acute respiratory illness and renal failure. The Health Protection Agency of the UK (HPA) conducted laboratory testing and has confirmed the presence of a novel coronavirus.
The HPA compared information from the clinical sample collected from the 49 year-old Qatari national with that of a virus sequenced previously by the Erasmus University Medical Centre, Netherlands. This latter isolate was obtained from lung tissue of a fatal case earlier in a 60 year-old Saudi national. This comparison indicated 99.5% identity, with one nucleotide mismatch over the regions compared.
The new virus is a coronavirus (what is coronavirus), within a class that includes the virus that causes SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. SARS spread like wildfire in 2002 and 2003, infecting 8,100 people and killing nearly 800.
The new virus is most closely related to coronaviruses that bats carry, but it probably didn't jump directly from bats to people. None of the people who got the disease had direct contact with bats, and the virus is not exactly the same as any known to infect bats.
This virus is referred to as 'Saudi SARS' in informal settings to differentiate it from the Hong Kong/Canadian SARS.
The novel coronavirus / MERS-CoV may likely be spread from person to person through close contact. However, this virus does not appear to spread very easily. In the UK, one infected person appears to have spread the virus to two family members. However, this is still being investigated.
The WHO said although this latest case shows evidence of person-to-person transmission, it still believes "the risk of sustained person-to-person transmission appears to be very low".
RISK VERY LOW, BUT VIRUSES CAN MUTATE
From April 2012 to February 2013, a total of 13 people from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Kingdom were confirmed to have an infection caused by the novel coronavirus / MERS-CoV.
Saudi Arabia: 6 people; 4 of them died
Qatar: 2 people; both survived
Jordan: 2 people; both died
UK: 3 people; 1 died, 1 receiving treatment, 1 recovered (See novel coronavirus infection update)
People who got infected with the novel coronavirus / MERS-CoV developed acute respiratory illness with symptoms of shortness of breath, fever, cough, difficulty breathing, and pneumonia. (More Coronavirus Symptoms)
There are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by the novel coronavirus / MERS-CoV. Medical care is supportive and to help relieve symptoms.
1. "Novel coronavirus infection in the United Kingdom" World Health Organization. 23 September 2012.
2. Tina Hesman Saey (27 February 2013) "Scientists race to understand deadly new virus" ScienceNews.
3. "Overview of the Novel Coronavirus" National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. 21 February 2013.
4. Kate Kelland (13 February 2013) "New SARS-like virus shows person-to-person transmission" Reuters.
5. "Coronavirus infections" – update. World Health Organization.