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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS): McGill expert

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Published: 13 May 2014

The World Health Organization has scheduled an emergency meeting on Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the wake of a second traveler to the U.S. having been diagnosed with (MERS) infection, health officials say. MERS is a respiratory illness that begins with flu-like fever and cough, but can lead to shortness of breath and pneumonia. MERS belongs to the coronavirus family that includes the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which caused some 800 deaths globally in 2003.

The MERS virus has been found in camels, but officials don't know how it is spreading to humans. It can spread from person to person, but officials believe that happens only after close contact. Not all those exposed to the virus become ill. It appears to be unusually lethal — by some estimates, it has killed nearly a third of the people it sickened. That's a far higher percentage than seasonal flu or other routine infections. But it is not as contagious as flu, measles or other diseases. There is no vaccine or cure and there's no specific treatment except to relieve symptoms.

Maziar Divangahi, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine and an Associate Member, Dept. Microbiology & Immunology at McGill University, Meakins-Christie Laboratories

Expertise: cellular and molecular mechanisms of host defense against Influenza and Mycobacterium tuberculosis

*Prof. Divangahi may be interviewed in English

e-mail: maziar [dot] divangahi [at] mcgill [dot] ca

Story link, The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/may/12/fresh-mers-virus-warning-issued

More on MERS, Centers for Disease Control and Preventionhttp://www.cdc.gov/CORONAVIRUS/MERS/INDEX.HTML

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