Deadly and debilitating viruses are no strangers to the Middle East; especially following the discovery of a SARS-like mystery virus in Saudi Arabia back in 2012. This virus, which since then has become known as the Corona or MERS virus (see photo above) has been said to be spreading fast in the Arabian Peninsula by bats and camels.
But Saudi doesn’t seem to be able to cope with the problem.
The focus of the MERS virus, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, has until now been centered in Saudi Arabia, where 261 confirmed cases of the virus have resulted in 81 deaths.
The spread of the virus in the Kingdom has raised such concern that the Saudi Health Minister, Abdullah al Rabeeah, was sacked recently by Saudi by King Abdullah after saying in a news conference that he “had no idea why Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus, or MERS, was surging,” in his country.
The outcry and fear in this desert nation over the deadly disease, for which there is presently no vaccine and which kills an estimated one in three who contract the disease, is now causing great concern for the health of the millions of visitors who will come there during the annual Hajj pilgrimage; causing it to spread to developing countries in Africa and Asia.
A number of victims to the disease have been health workers who have had to deal with the increasing cases of the disease, now said to be passed from person to person. This has caused doctors and nurses to doctors and nurses to express their concerns on Twitter and other social media sites; and accuse the health ministry of trying to minimize the outbreak.
To add to the above fears, the word is out that the MERS virus has now spread to Egypt.
Local reports from Al Jazeera say that the deadly virus was reported recently in Cairo from a person who had returned from visiting Saudi Arabia. Al Jazeera went on to say that the “virus has been extraordinarily common” in camels for at least 20 years, and may have been passed directly from the animals to humans”.
This factor involving camels transmitting the disease was also reported by Green Prophet.
The SARS virus, which caused great concern almost a decade ago, resulted in 8,273 persons being infected, of which 9 per cent died.
Dr Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and an expert on pandemics and biosecurity, was quoted saying that the Saudi government needs to cooperate more with international health officials, such as those connected with the World Health Organization:
“They really need to bring in the global public health community. A senior WHO-supported team needs to get in there and help out. They need people with expertise,” says Dr. Osterholm.
More articles on the MERS virus, now on the rise in the Middle East:
Photo of actual Corona shaped MERS virus by Reuters/AlJazeera