As of 15 May 2013, WHO had been informed of a global total of 40 laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with novel coronavirus, including 20 deaths, in 6 countries: France, Germany, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.
Since the discovery of the virus, scientific literature, databases and the media have used various names for it. To provide uniformity and facilitate communication about the disease, the Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses has decided to call the new virus Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). WHO and other Committee members strongly urge the use of this name in scientific and other communications. The standardized name was announced in the “Journal of Virology” on 15 May.
Although the number of cases documented is limited, the morbidity and mortality from MERS-CoV infection are alarming. A few of the known cases developed mild disease, but most patients have presented with a severe acute respiratory condition requiring hospitalization, and half have died.
So far, the infection appears to be geographically linked to the Arabian Peninsula. Two small clusters of human-to-human transmission, from imported cases with travel history to the Arabian Peninsula, have been observed in Europe: in United Kingdom (2 cases) and in France (1 case).
Saudi Arabia informed WHO of two laboratory-confirmed cases in health care workers who were exposed to patients with confirmed MERS-CoV: a 45-year-old man, who became ill on 2 May 2013 and is in a critical condition, and a 43-year-old woman with a coexisting health condition, who became ill on 8 May 2013 and is in stable condition.
Although health-care-associated transmission of the virus had previously been observed in Jordan in April 2012, this was the first time that health care workers had been diagnosed with MERS-CoV infection after exposure to patients. Concern remains that the virus may adapt to efficient human-to-human transmission. WHO continues to monitor the situation closely.