More than one month ago, the Republic of Korea confirmed its first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) infection. Since then, the number has raised to 180 including 31 deaths (WHO, 26.06.2015). One MERS infection has been reported in China so far. The man has already recovered and will leave the hospital within the next days.
MERS is a viral respiratory disease which is caused by the MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Symptoms are high fever, cough and shortness of breath. The infection may be fatal especially for elderly people or persons with already weakened immune system. Cases of MERS have been reported in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 2012. Until the outbreak in the Republic of Korea, those have been predominantly restricted to the Arabian Peninsula.
The exact mechanism of MERS-CoV transmission has not yet been unraveled. Camels are regarded as important reservoir and primary infection source for humans. Transmission from human to human has been particularly registered in healthcare facilities and through household contacts: close, unprotected contact to infected patients is obviously required to catch the virus. Subclinical infections, which occur without symptoms of a severe disease, may also be an important source of new infections between humans. Infected persons do not feel very sick, keep familiar contacts to family and friends and therewith could spread the virus within their close environment.