Thanks to Rachel Graham for tweeting the link to this Reuters report in elEconomista.es: Special Report - Saudi Arabia takes heat for spread of MERS virus. Excerpt:
In a north London laboratory on a Saturday in September 2012, an email arrived from a team of virologists in the Netherlands that spooked even some of the world's most seasoned virus handlers.
It contained details of a mysterious viral pathogen that had been found in two patients - a Qatari in intensive care in Britain, and a Saudi who died in a Jeddah hospital of pneumonia and renal failure.
This information-sharing between world-leading specialists proved fruitful: Within days the new virus had been identified as one never seen before in humans, had some of its genes sequenced, and its genetic ancestry published online for scientists around the world to see.
Yet that international collaboration was not to last.
Instead, Western scientists allege, the cooperation gave way to a Saudi culture of suspicion and stubbornness that has allowed the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, as it has become known, to kill more than 175 people in Saudi Arabia, spread throughout the region and reach as far as Malaysia, Greece, Lebanon and - via Britain - the United States.
The disease, like its cousin Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), causes coughing, fever and sometimes fatal pneumonia. More than 650 people worldwide have been infected with it, and MERS is reaching new victims every day in the Saudi kingdom, killing around 30 percent of them.
Experts say these infections and deaths could have been stopped well within the two years since MERS first emerged - and would have been if Saudi authorities had been more open to outside help offered by specialist teams around the world with the technology, know-how and will to conduct vital scientific studies.
But according to scientists involved in tracking MERS over the past two years, the Saudis have rejected repeated offers of help - including from World Health Organisation (WHO) experts, as well as the Dutch specialists at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam and the London team working for Public Health England (PHE).
In Saudi Arabia, no case-control study has been completed, meaning fundamental questions cannot be answered about the virus' capabilities, where it came from, and what it might do next.
"It's really a tragedy for these people who get sick," said David Heymann, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology, chairman of PHE and head of global health security at Britain's Royal Institute of International Affairs.
"It's just so frustrating not to know how people are getting infected and to see people continue to get infected and die from a virus which maybe they wouldn't have to get if we knew more."
Saudi Deputy Health Minister Ziad Memish told Reuters he was "surprised" by such criticisms, describing work done by his Ministry of Health since the emergence of the disease as "nothing but collaborative."