As of mid- May 2013, World Health Organization (WHO) had been informed of 40 laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with the novel coronavirus globally and this includes 20 deaths, in the countries: Jordan, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. For uniformity and to facilitate communication, this virus has been named by the Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses as Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
Albeit limited number of documented cases, the morbidity and mortality due to MERS-CoV infection are alarming and a cause of concern about healthcare providers. While a few cases had developed mild presentations, most had severe acute respiratory disorder and of these, 50% were fatal.
Geographical distribution and transmission
So far, the infection has been reportedly geographically linked to the Arabian Peninsula and 2 small clusters of human-to-human transmission, from imported cases with travel history to the Arabian Peninsula, have been observed in Europe. WHO was informed of 2 laboratory-confirmed cases in health care workers exposed to patients with MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia. This leads to the concern about the virus’s ability to adapt to human to human transmission and calls for the need to close monitoring. The source of infection is not yet known.
Recommendations from WHO
WHO has advised all health care providers to be observant for recent travellers who develop severe acute respiratory infection after returning from MERS-CoV affected areas and also to obtain lower respiratory tract specimens from patients for diagnosis. The clinicians are advised to consider even atypical signs and symptoms in patients with compromised immune systems for MERS–CoV infection.