One such case is a 34 year old woman, with no previous medical problems, who presented in Riyadh with MERS. Her condition rapidly progressed requiring treatment in the intensive care unit. When attention was turned to how this patient caught the severe respiratory infection, this too did not fit with previous cases. As has been widely reported, the main reservoir of this infection is thought to be the local camel population, which has been found to be infected with the same virus. Many cases of MERS have been found in those directly exposed to infected camels, but such a history is notably absent in this young woman, further highlighting the continued need for research into this potentially devastating viral infection.
Although there is still much to learn, the fact that the incidence of MERS has responded to the measures instigated by the WHO and others, suggests that the right path is being followed. Precautions such as avoiding camels and camel products are strongly advised. Moreover caution should be taken when attending markets, and hands should be regularly washed, food cooked thoroughly and vegetables peeled and washed.
Dr Simon Worrell BSc MBBS MRCP, Head of Medical Communications, Healix International.