Via VOA: WHO: Upsurge in MERS Corona Virus Due to Warmer Weather. Excerpt:
GENEVA — The World Health Organization (WHO) says it believes the recent spike in cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS Corona virus is probably due to a seasonal increase of the disease rather than to any changes in the behavior of the virus.
WHO says similar upsurges have occurred around the same time in the past two years.
WHO spokesman Gregory Härtl says the increase in cases is most likely due to the warmer weather in the Arabian Peninsula and to outbreaks of the disease in two or three hospitals in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
He says health officials do not know how the virus is transmitted from person to person. But it is clear, he says, the disease does not spread with the same ease that Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, did.
“We do not think it does transmit very efficiently," said Härtl. "It certainly is not anything like SARS or like diseases like influenza…There is no way we can predict the future. But, for us, at the moment, certainly this virus MERS does not have the ability to infect in the same way that SARS did. So, that is a good sign.”
Härtl says SARS is highly contagious. The disease broke out in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan in the early 2000s. Over a six-month period, at the height of the epidemic, nearly 8,100 cases and 774 deaths were reported.
By comparison, Härtl notes WHO has confirmed 261 cases of MERS corona virus in two years. But, the downside is that 93 people have died, which is a much higher fatality rate than that of SARS.
The MERS corona virus is shrouded in mystery. Health officials know that camels are one of the hosts of the virus, but they believe the disease may also stem from other sources. They also do not know why some humans get infected and others do not.
The virus made its first appearance in Egypt last week. Cases also have been confirmed in Greece, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia. But WHO spokesman Härtl says patients in those countries acquired the disease while they were in Saudi Arabia. He says the virus remains largely contained in the Middle East.
He says the virus has not changed its character. Thirty viruses have been tested, he says, and none have mutated.