Map created by CUHK SpatioEpi Group
As of early May 2014, about 500 confirmed human cases of MERS-CoV infection have been notified to World Health Organization (WHO). These reports came from countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America, as reflected by the red star symbols on the inset map at right upper corner.
Nonetheless, MERS-CoV remains concentrated in Saudi Arabia in Middle East. The chart at the lower right corner shows the epidemic curve between April 2013 and early May 2014 in Saudi Arabia. In April 2014, the total number of reported cases rose above 160, a figure much higher than that in any preceding month.
Between January and early May 2014, 6 regions in Saudi Arabia have reported confirmed MERS-CoV cases, with the highest number in Makkah and Riyadh, as shown in the map. A proportion of confirmed cases had history of animal exposure (e.g. camel) in Ash Sharqiyah and Riyadh, while more than half in Tabuk and Al Madinah had contracted the virus through human contact. As shown in the chart, the proportion of reported cases from human-to-human transmission has increased, many of which occurring in health care settings, which is a cause for concern.
Data for the map were extracted from WHO and Ministry of Health, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
MERS-CoV is the abbreviation for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, a newly discovered virus associated with severe respiratory symptoms in infected persons, largely from countries in the Middle East. "Corona" means crown, which refers to the crown-like appearance under electron microscope. Initially named as NCoV (novel coronavirus), the virus belongs to a common family composing of viruses responsible for common cold, and SARS that caused severe outbreaks in Hong Kong, back in 2003. The virus was structurally similar to coronavirus in bats and other animals. The first case of MERS-CoV infection was reported in April 2012. Scientific evidences suggested that MERS-CoV is a virus infecting dromedary camels, through which human infection occurred, though the exact mode of transmission is not well characterized. Human-to-human transmission has also been documented as a result of suboptimal infection control practice. There is no definitive treatment for MERS-CoV infection and about one-third of infected patients have died from the infection.
中東呼吸綜合症冠狀病毒 (MERS-CoV) 是導致新發現嚴重呼吸道感染的病毒，大部份個案來自中東。冠狀病毒取名於病毒在電子顯微鏡下的皇冠外形。冠狀病毒與引起上呼吸道感染的病毒和2003年香港沙士疫症的沙士冠狀病毒同屬一個病毒家族，結構上與蝙蝠及其他動物的冠狀病毒相似。2012年4月首次發現人類感染中東呼吸綜合症，其病毒當時被稱為新型冠狀病毒（NCoV）。科學研究發現MERS-CoV 主要在單峰駱駝之間傳播，再引致入類受到感染，當中的傳播過程仍未得以破解。人傳人的個案亦已出現，主要和醫療環境下感染控制措施不足有關。時至今日，仍然沒有有效的治療MERS-CoV方法，大約三分一感染者死亡。
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