Virus Originating in Middle East Raises International Concern

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The novel coronavirus, like those viruses pictured here, has claimed more than forty lives in less than a year. Yet little is known about the virus apart from scant details about its symptoms, degree of contagiousness, and its origin in the Middle East.
The novel coronavirus, like those viruses pictured here, has claimed more than forty lives in less than a year. Yet little is known about the virus apart from scant details about its symptoms, degree of contagiousness, and its origin in the Middle East.
The novel coronavirus, like those viruses pictured here, has claimed more than forty lives in less than a year. Yet little is known about the virus apart from scant details about its symptoms, degree of contagiousness, and its origin in the Middle East.

A new lethal virus believed to have its beginnings in the Middle East is increasingly claiming more lives, worrying health officials who have yet to locate a treatment for the bug.

The novel coronavirus, nCov, was first detected in April 2012 and has infected 44 people and killed 22 of them since September 2012, Time reported, citing the World Health Organization (WHO). Those infected with the virus can be plagued with a range of other illnesses, such as the common cold or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, also known as SARS, the Time report added. SARS, in particular, is recognized as a virus related to nCov, though the latter generates muscle chills and aches and is allegedly more transferable between people, according to the aforementioned report.

Margaret Chan, the director-general of the WHO, spoke at the 66th World Assembly about the need to learn more about the nCov.

“We do not know where the virus hides in nature. We do not know how people are getting infected. Until we answer these questions, we are empty-handed when it comes to prevention. These are alarm bells. And we must respond,” she said, according to Time.

Sparse details about the virus are currently known. But the Time report affirmed some particulars: nCov spreads among people but to a lesser extent than SARS does; the virus originated in Saudi Arabia and has subsequently spread to Jordan, Qatar, and European countries such as France and Germany as visitors to the Middle East have returned to their home countries; and the symptoms of the virus are “primarily characterized as respiratory illness.”

A day after Chain warned of nCov, a 65-year-old man died in northern France from virus, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, citing French officials. The man’s roommate was also hospitalized with the illness. As predicted, the man had indeed contracted the virus while abroad; he had recently returned from a trip in April to the United Arab Emirates, according to the Journal.

Because the Middle East has been charged as the region responsible for the bug, “international health authorities” have gone so far as to name the virus the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or MERS CoV, the Journal report added. Thirty-three of the 44 cases recorded have occurred in Saudi Arabia, specifically, however, according to said report.

The virus is believed to not only be Middle Eastern in origin, but also to have first been contracted through animal contact. Consequently, French authorities have been advising travelers to the Middle East to both keep clean and limit their contact with animals, according to the Journal.