• No risk of pandemic yet from MERS virus

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    PARIS: The new MERS coronavirus that has claimed dozens of lives in the Middle East does not yet have the ability to trigger a pandemic, but vigilance is needed in case it mutates, French scientists said on Friday.

    “Our analysis suggests that MERS-CoV does not yet have pandemic potential,” they reported online in The Lancet.

    But they urged health watchdogs to keep up their guard and pursue the search for the virus’ bolthole in nature.

    “We recommend enhanced surveillance, active contact tracing and vigorous searches for the MERS-CoV animal hosts and transmission routes to human beings,” said the Pasteur Institute team, which conducted the research.

    A respiratory virus that can cause fever and pneumonia, MERS is a cousin of the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome virus, which erupted in southern China in 2003 and snowballed into a global health scare.

    Since Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) first came to light in 2012, there have been 43 recorded deaths, 36 of them in Saudi Arabia.

    The death rate is high—at roughly one in every two patients—although doctors say there may be other case that are not diagnosed as MERS or do not cause grave illness.

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