Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a disease tearing its way through the Arab world, has now reached Egypt. The disease has already killed at least 92 people in Saudi Arabia, where over 300 MERS cases have been diagnosed.
The first Egyptian confirmed to have the disease recently traveled to that nation. The 27-year-old civil engineer is being treated in a hospital in Cairo.
In addition to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, MERS has reached the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. An Indonesian man died from the disease after returning home from the Saudi kingdom.
Symptoms of MERS include coughing and fever, which can turn to pneumonia. These are similar to the effects of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, first discovered in Asia during 2003. Unlike that disease, which killed fewer than 10 percent of its victims, the new syndrome is taking the life of one-third of people diagnosed.
"So far, all the cases have been linked to six countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula. No cases have been identified in the U.S. This virus has spread from ill people to others through close contact. However, the virus has not shown to spread in a sustained way in communities," the Centers for Disease Control reported on their Web page detailing the syndrome.
Before MERS was identified in Egypt, health officials detected the virus in camels. These animals may serve in the transmission of the disease.
MERS is caused by MERS-CoV, a coronavirus, large retroviruses marked by bulb-like appendages. These give the microscopic organisms the appearance of a child's drawing of the sun.
"[The] CDC recognizes the potential for the virus to spread further and cause more cases and clusters globally, including in the United States," officials for the federal health agency stated on a FAQ Web page about MERS.
The government of Saudi Arabia announced on 25 April that the last five deaths in the kingdom were located in the cities of Mecca, Jiddah, and the capital city of Riyadh. The Egyptian man currently being treated for MERS is a native of the Nile Delta, but was living in the nation's capital when he contracted the virus.
On Monday, 21 April, Saudi King Abdullah fired the country's health minister, amid a growing public controversy over the government's handling of the emerging health crisis.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued travel advice for people headed to affected areas.
Coronaviruses routinely affect the upper respiratory and the gastrointestinal tracks of victims. The first of these viruses were detected in the 1960's, in the nasal fluid of people exhibiting cold-like symptoms.