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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Death Walking Among Us Silently - Scientists Worried About MERS 'Carriers'

By Susan Duclos

Via Reuters we see that scientists are studying whether people that are carrying the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), but showing no actual symptoms, are able to infect others, calling it the next critical front in the battle in keeping MERS from rising to pandemic status.

Dr Amesh Adalja of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, likens it to Typhoid Mary, referring a cook who spread typhoid fever to dozens of people in the early 20th century, yet she was considered asymptomatic.

They plan to test the family members of people with mild MERS, even if these relatives don't have any symptoms, to help determine whether the virus can spread within a household.

Cases of the disease, which causes coughing, fever and sometimes fatal pneumonia, have nearly tripled in the past month and a half, and the virus is moving out of the Arabian peninsula as infected individuals travel from the region.

Since late April, the first two cases of MERS have been reported on U.S. soil. Dutch officials reported their first two cases this week. Infections have also turned up in Britain, Greece, France, Italy, Malaysia and elsewhere.

Previously it was reported that two healthcare workers were being monitored for MERS after coming into contact with a patient confirmed to have it, and up to 20 other healthcare workers were told to stay home, to not report for work for 14 days.


A CDC study published earlier this week looked at some of the first cases of MERS that occurred in Jordan in 2012.

Initially, only two people in that outbreak were thought to have MERS. When CDC disease detectives used more sensitive tests that looked for MERS antibodies among hospital workers, they found another seven people had contracted MERS and survived it.

That suggests there may be people with mild cases "that can serve as a way for the virus to spread to other individuals, which makes it a lot harder to control," Adalja said.

Via the CDC, some pertinent information about MERS:


Most people who got infected with MERS-CoV developed severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. 30% of them died. Some people were reported as having a mild respiratory illness.


  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact, such as kissing, sharing cups, or sharing eating utensils, with sick people.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs.

CDC Website on MERS here and FAQ page here.