Iran Announces First 2 MERS Cases; No Infection in the UAE


The Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus continues to spread. While the health authorities said on Monday there is no infection in the UAE, Iran officials announced the country’s first two cases of the deadly virus.

Iran joined the expanding list of countries where experts have identified the new MERS virus. Today, a Health Ministry’s official announced two cases were confirmed in the Iranian province of Kerman. This is the first incident of the corona virus within the country and according to Mohammad Mahdi Gouya, Director General of Communicable Diseases at the Health Ministry, the patients are two sisters. They were positively diagnosed with MERS after the four-member family was tested. While one of the patients is receiving treatment “under special circumstances”, the other is reported to be in a critical condition.

Meanwhile, health officials in the UAE said that all infected patients have cleared out from the virus and currently there are no cases in hospitals. Monday, May 27, was also a good day for Saudi Arabia – the country which reported most of the infections announced no new cases or deaths, caused by the deadly disease. Since September 2012, there have been over MERS 600 cases worldwide, over 500 of which have been identified in the Kingdom. The virus has also killed around 180 people, which is a death rate of nearly 30 percent. While until a few months ago, international health experts didn’t express big concerns about a possible outbreak, now the recent upsurge caused government bodies, private pharmaceutical companies and non-governmental organizations to turn eyes to the Middle East.

With the upcoming pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, countries are starting to take measures for preventing the infection from further spreading. Gouya said Iranian Hajj pilgrims will be checked up after they come back from their travel. Last week, after two cases of MERS were identified in the US, awareness signs appeared at some American airports. Now Kuwait said it will install infra-red cameras at two points of entry that will monitor and possibly able to discover the infection. At the same time, awareness campaigns and prevention guidelines were designed to contain the outbreak. According to experts, in order to prevent getting infected with MERS, we should wash our hands often with soap and water, use a tissue to cover the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, avoid people diagnosed with MERS, and eating only well-cooked camel meat, liver and milk.
Camels are most probably the source of the infection, but there is still little information on how exactly the virus transfers to humans. Now a researcher at the Columbia University suggests that the illness can be carried by dogs and cats, as well. So, scientists may soon start to test all domesticated animals for antibodies, including cats and dogs. Although there is working vaccine against MERS, doctors have found several promising treatments that consist of already existing drugs.


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