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MERS moves into Egypt

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Egypt has reported its first confirmed case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in a 27-year old man who had recently returned from Riyadh, Saudia Arabia. The Kingdom currently stated that 313 people there have already been diagnosed with the (potentially) deadly virus. So far there have been 90 deaths. The Egyptian patient is currently being treated at a hospital in Cairo for pneumonia, and is listed in stable condition.

MERS is viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus called MERS-CoV. Most people who have it develop severe acute respiratory illness including fever, shortness of breath and coughing. While the virus is generally spread through close contact with infected people it has not been "seen to spread through communities in any sustained way according to international health officials, who report that as of April 16, 2014, MERS-CoV cases have been reported in a number of countries, including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, as well as the Philippines, and now Egypt. No cases have been found in the US as yet.

Originally believed to be spread by African and Australian bats, recent studies have traced coronavirus infections in dromedary camels (possibly transmitted by bats). In fact, a report published in the August 9, 2013 issue of the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases stated that “100% of blood serum from Omani camels and 14% from Spanish camels had protein-specific antibodies against the MERS-CoV spike protein.” As a result, The Qatar Supreme Council of Health has warned especially vulnerable people including those suffering from heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, respiratory disease, weakened immune systems and the elderly to "avoid any close contact" with the animals when visiting marketplaces or on farms. Those that do touch camels are also advised to wash their hands thoroughly afterwards.