A person has tested positive for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (also known as MERS or MERS-CoV) in Al Ain city of Abu Dhabi, the Capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to the World Health Organization (WHO). As of yet, the source of the infection is unclear.
The 28-year-old man was admitted to hospital on June 8 and was officially diagnosed with MERS on June 23 after a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test proved a positive result. The WHO gave few details about the man or his condition, but noted he was not a healthcare worker nor a citizen of the UAE.
A total of 108 people who had been in contact with the patient at healthcare facilities were identified and screened for MERS, but all results were negative.
MERS is caused by a coronavirus that’s related but not the same as the one that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2.
It’s generally a respiratory disease, causing symptoms such as a fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Some cases can also lead to pneumonia and/or gastrointestinal problems.
There's evidence that camels in the Middle East are the main source of the virus, but it can also spread from person to person.
The latest case reported by the WHO has reportedly not come into contact with dromedary camels or any camel products, meaning the source of his infection is unclear.
MERS was first identified in 2012 in the Middle East where it is still most commonly reported. Since its discovery, there have been three notable outbreaks. Prior to this case, the last MERS infection reported from the UAE was in November 2021.
The most severe outbreak of MERS occurred in 2012. From 2012 to 2020, the WHO recorded 2,566 cases and 882 deaths. That works out to be a fatality rate of 34 percent, which is very high. However, the WHO has noted that "this may be an overestimate of the true mortality rate, as mild cases of MERS may be missed by existing surveillance systems."
Most of the cases in the 2012 outbreak occurred in Saudia Arabia, South Korea, UAE, Jordan, Qatar, Oman, and Iran. The UK recorded five cases and three deaths, while the US reported two and no deaths.