How Deadly is the MERS Virus

kpopluv, June 2, 2015, 8:51 a.m.

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome appears to be more deadly than Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which struck Asia in 2003, or swine flu. MERS has a much higher fatality rate, though SARS spread faster.

MERS is a severe respiratory disease caused by a new type of MERS-coronavirus that has not been seen before. Most infections have occurred in the Middle East, hence the name. 

Symptoms include a high fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. The death rate is thought to be about 40 percent. SARS, which surfaced in China in November 2002 and became rampant in 2003, is also caused by a coronavirus. The SARS-coronavirus is believed to be transmitted through particles in the air, and people were infected when they inhaled drops of spit from coughing patients or through other close contact with a patient. 

But the fatality rate was only about 10 percent. "The MERS fatality rate is 4.3 times higher than that of SARS," said Prof. Lee Jae-gap at Hallym University Medical Center. "It takes 11.5 days for MERS patients to die after their symptoms appear, compared to 23.7 days for SARS patients."

The fatality rate of secondary infections appears to be much lower than that of primary infections caused by direct contact with virus-carrying camels, so the ultimate fatality rate will keep coming down, Lee predicted.

Meanwhile, the H1N1 swine flu, which caused something of a global panic in 2009, proved to be an ordinary flu with a negligible fatality rate of 0.07 percent, even lower than the normal rate for seasonal flu of about 0.1 percent.

Still, some 260 people died of the disease in Korea as of March 2010 because it spread so fast, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though most of them were already ill and weak.

The first death from MERS in Korea was also a woman who had a long history of kidney disease and diabetes. Ebola is much more dangerous in West Africa, though estimates of the fatality rate vary from 25 to 90 percent.


comments powered by Disqus