[News article] Middle East Mystery Disease Triggers Early Resurgence
International health experts head to Saudi Arabia to help determine why MERS cases are soaring again
Infectious disease watchers are again wondering what is going on in Saudi Arabia. Since the beginning of February the Saudis have reported 52 cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome—better known as MERS; 40 have come to light in the past week or so alone. Since the disease first hit the world’s radar in September 2012 only two months have racked up more cases than this one has. They were April and May 2014, when Saudi Arabia had rampantMERS outbreaks in several hospitals.*
An expert delegation from the United Nation’s human and animal health agencies began a three-day mission to the Arabian Peninsula’s geographically largest country Wednesday, trying to get to the bottom of why MERS cases are soaring.
This is the time of year in which the number of MERS cases has climbed in the past, although not enough time has elapsed to make clear whether that pattern will continue. In the past two springs large hospital outbreaks in Saudi Arabia have certainly created the appearance of a high season for MERS transmission, which some scientists believe exists and is linked to the birth and weaning of young camels. The animals are known to be susceptible to the virus and can transmit it to people.
According to the daily updates posted online by the Saudi health ministry, most of the recent cases—unlike during past surges—did not report contact with camels or with other people infected with MERS—either in the community or in a hospital setting. “It seems quite a few are not health care associated,” says Koopmans…
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