MERS Threat: It is important to note this originates from
the Arab Middle East – A modern day source of terrorism.
On May 2, 2014, the first U.S. imported case of MERS was
confirmed in a traveler from Saudi Arabia to the U.S. On
May 11, 2014, a second U.S. imported case of MERS was
confirmed in a traveler who also came from Saudi Arabia.
The two U.S. cases are not linked. On May 16, 2014, an
Illinois resident who had contact with the first case of MERS
in the U.S. tested positive for MERS-CoV.
Two years ago, the virus didn’t even have a name. A year ago
it had infected roughly 50 people, half of whom died. Now,
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome has been confirmed in
more than 600 people, and killed nearly 30 percent of its
Originating on the Arabian Peninsula, MERS has been
carried via travelers to the United States (two reported
cases), North Africa, and Malaysia, as well as a handful of
Adding urgency to the anxiety, the annual pilgrimage to
Mecca in early October will draw more than a million people
through the city of Jeddah, the outbreak’s “ground zero.”
Why not a vaccine NOW?
Finding an attackable target on the surface of a virus is
relatively easy these days, and there’s nothing about the
MERS virus that is likely to make it difficult to attack. But
testing the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine could easily
take six years—as it did to develop a meningococcus B
vaccine to address an epidemic in New Zealand—and will
likely cost upward of half a billion dollars, said Philip
Dormitzer, global head of virology for Novartis Vaccines.
The rise in the reported number of MERS cases in the
United States, Asia and Europe has fueled concern that this
virus may be the big one: the 21st century equivalent of the
1918 influenza pandemic that killed 3% to 5% of the world
MERS, like 70% of all emerging infectious diseases,
including influenza, SARS, HIV/AIDS and ebola, originates
in wildlife. With MERS, both bats and camels may be
implicated. Studies of camels in Saudi Arabia indicate that
the majority have a history of MERS coronavirus infection.
Infection appears to occur in early life and then clears. Up to
a third of young camels carry this infectious virus. Because
camels are born in the spring, there may be an increased
amount of virus circulating in camels in spring and summer
months. This may contribute to a seasonal spike in the
reported number of MERS cases.
The MERS coronavirus can be stable for up to 48 hours.
MERS virus contracted in the U.S. Hospitalized patients
with pneumonia-like MERS receive vigorous respiratory
interventions such as intubation, assisted ventilation, drugs
that dilate airways and chest percussion. These
interventions may bring virus into the environment in
aerosols and on the surfaces of medical equipment,
resulting in infection of hospital personnel and other
patients. t may be difficult to determine the source of
infection as people and equipment circulate in the health
To date, cases of human-to-human transmission have only
been reported in hospitals and in families where there is
intimate contact with an infected person. If we notice a
change in this pattern such that clusters of infections begin
to appear in communities with more casual contact, that
would be a strong sign that the virus is evolving to become a
Source: W. Ian Lipkin is John Snow professor of
epidemiology and director of the Center for Infection and
Immunity at Columbia University and CNN
Yours in the Bonds of Fellowship
James R Cathey ThD PhD
Ordained Minister of Jesus our Lord since 1975