April 19, 2014 -- A sudden uptick in the SARS-like corona virus called MERS-CoV for Middle Eastern Respiratory Coronavirus is partially related to health care workers becoming infected with the disease.
This month the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed 32 cases of the virus so far, including a cluster of 10 health care workers, all of whom worked with an infected patient who died on April 10. Nearly all the cases were located in the Middle East countries of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Jordan. One case was found in Malaysia.
Of the 32 cases reported this month, 19 were health care workers, according to the WHO.
For the first time, the disease has been found in Asia, after a Malaysian man was found to have contracted it this month. The 54-year-old man was diagnosed with the disease after traveling to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The man traveled for a pilgrimage and during his vacation spent time at a camel farm, where he had camel milk. He died on April 13 and had undisclosed underlying health conditions.
The virus is a respiratory virus in the same family as the deadly SARS virus and common cold. Symptoms can include fever, shortness of breath, pneumonia, diarrhea and in severe cases kidney failure.
Since the virus was first identified in April 2012, the WHO has found a total of 243 confirmed cases of the deadly virus and 93 people have died from it.
The virus has been shown to spread between people in close contact. Currently officials do not know where the virus originated, but suspect it was likely from an animal.
No MERS-CoV infections have been reported in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers to the Arabian Peninsula monitor their health during the trip and in the weeks after.
CDC officials recommend that if a recent traveler to the region develops a fever or symptom of respiratory illness, including a cough or shortness of breath, they should see a doctor immediately.