July 4, 2013 – LONDON – A man infected with a SARS-like respiratory illness has died in London, officials said. The Qatari man, who was being treated in an intensive care unit at St Thomas’s hospital in central London, had contracted the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus – or MERS-CoV. Hospital officials said that the man, who was 49 when he was admitted, died after his condition deteriorated. The patient, who was suffering from acute respiratory syndrome and renal failure, was admitted to an intensive care unit in Doha, Qatar, on 7 September last year. The man, who has not been named by officials, was transferred to the UK by air ambulance on 11 September. Before he became ill he had travelled to Saudi Arabia, officials said. Despite doctors’ efforts to keep him alive, including connecting him to an artificial lung, he died on Friday last week. A hospital spokeswoman said: “Guy’s and St Thomas’s can confirm that the patient with severe respiratory illness due to novel coronavirus … sadly died on Friday 28 June, after his condition deteriorated despite every effort and full supportive treatment.” In May, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that MERS-CoV – is a “threat to the entire world” and experts have raised concerns that the disease is “emerging faster than our understanding.” Latest figures from the WHO, published before the latest UK death, show that since September last year there have been 77 laboratory confirmed cases across nine countries, which have resulted in 40 deaths. British health officials have been advised to be vigilant for severe unexplained respiratory illness in anyone who has recently travelled in the Middle East, as well as any unexplained clusters of such illness. Coronaviruses cause most common colds but can also cause SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). In 2003, hundreds of people died after a SARS outbreak in Asia. –Guardian
No pandemic threat yet: The Middle East coronavirus that has killed 40 people since emerging late last year has not yet reached pandemic potential and may simply die out, according to new estimates of how easily it is transmitted. In a study in The Lancet medical journal, researchers from France’s Institute Pasteur in Paris analyzed data on Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) clusters and found its likelihood of developing into a SARS-like worldwide epidemic was low. The MERS coronavirus, which can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia, emerged last year and has spread from the Gulf to France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and Britain. The World Health Organization puts the latest global toll at 40 deaths from a total of 77 laboratory-confirmed cases. It is related to SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, because the virus that causes it is from the same coronavirus family. SARS emerged in China in 2002 and then spread around the world, killing about a tenth of the 8,000 people it infected. But Arnaud Fontanet, who led the latest published research on MERS, said despite sharing “many clinical, epidemiological, and virological similarities with SARS, the two viruses have distinct biology.” He said one distinction was their use of different receptors to infect cells in human airways – a key factor in how easily a virus is passed from person to person.
To analyze whether MERS poses a similar threat as SARS did, Fontanet’s team looked at data from 55 cases of MERS infection and calculated some called a basic reproduction number, or R0. The basic reproduction number of an infection is the average number of secondary cases a single infected case will cause in a population with no immunity to the disease. Even in their worst case scenario, MERS had a lower R0 (at 0.69) compared with pre-pandemic SARS (at 0.80). When the R0 is above 1.0, epidemic potential has been reached, the researchers explained in their study. And the R0 for pandemic SARS was estimated to be between 2.2 and 3.7. “MERS has not spread as rapidly or as widely as SARS did,” Fontanet said in a statement. “SARS adaption to humans took just several months, whereas MERS has already been circulating more than a year in human populations without mutating into a pandemic form.” Ian Jones, a professor of virology at Britain’s University of Reading, said the findings confirmed what appeared to be happening on the ground – “that the current MERS coronavirus transmits poorly, below the threshold required to become widely spread.” –Reuters