Deadly MERS virus reaches Lebanon

MERS Virus Alert

Cases of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are continuing to crop up around the world. This time, CBC Radio-Canada reports that a case has been confirmed in Beirut, Lebanon. After returning from Saudi Arabia, a man checked into a hospital complaining of symptoms like those seen with MERS. Given his travel history to several Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia, health professionals suspected the infectious virus.

MERS is a coronavirus of the same family as SARS.  According to the Conversation, there are concerns that MERS could be the possible source of the next global pandemic.  A 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) infected more than 8,000 people and killed almost 800.  The World Health Organization reports that MERS suddenly appeared and started infecting people in September 2012 and may have a higher mortality rate than SARS.

However, CBS News reports that SARS infected healthy and unhealthy people at comparable rates.  Researchers concluded that because this virus seems to affect vulnerable people at a drastically higher rate, it does not have the propensity to become a global pandemic that wildly spreads throughout the world.  It is also easier to identify who is at risk and take appropriate measures to keep them from infection.

There is currently no cure or vaccine for MERS, making it imperative to control the spread. Officials in Lebanon and elsewhere are taking measures to screen international travelers that may be carrying the deadly virus. In Beirut, the health minister ordered that thermal cameras be set up to identify individuals that are possibly exhibiting a fever. The one known Lebanese case was a mild one and the man has since been discharged from the hospital.


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