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MERS coronavirus claims two more lives in Saudi Arabia

merscovThe Saudi Health Ministry Thursday announced two more deaths and 12 new confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus infections, Xinhua reported. That brings the total number of deaths to 85 and infections to 297 since the first diagnosed case was reported in the country in 2012. (Read: MERS-CoV Should Indians be worried? (Expert Interview))

Among the new cases, five were in Riyadh, six in Jeddah and one in Mecca. They included five Saudis and seven foreigners, the ministry said in a statement. Five were in intensive care. Both victims of the deadly virus were Saudis -- a 68-year-old man and a 72-year-old woman. (Read: MERS-CoV claims paramedic's life in UAE)

Yet no vaccine has been found against the virus. The Saudi authorities earlier said that they were working with international pharmaceutical firms to develop one. (Read: 12 fast facts about MERS-CoV)

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What exactly is the MERS-CoV?

MERS stands for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome which is a viral illness that was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.It is caused by a respiratory virus, a previously unseen variant of the coronavirus. It's very similar to a strain of coronavirus found in bats and not the same as the SARS virus that circulated in 2003.

Why we need to be worried

The problem with viruses like this is multi-fold. Vaccines and medicines are usually devised after years of planning and studying a particular pathogen so that we can contain them. Unlike seasonal influenza, healthcare professionals have no idea how to deal with unknown ailments, the way it spreads and how to contain it. The last time the world faced a situation like this was a decade ago when the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) broke out near Hong Kong where a local farmer died from the disease. In the next eight months, the disease affected over eight thousand people and caused 775 deaths in 37 different countries. The more worrying fact was that it had at its peak a fatality rate of 9.6% (almost one out of every ten people affected died) and despite the fact that the disease disappeared after early 2003, it's not believed to have been eradicated and the virus can still be lurking in animals. (Read: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) should you worry?)

With inputs from IANS

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