How MERS affected the world: Timeline of events

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Update Date 10/11/2020 . 4 mins read
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Pandemics caused by a coronavirus are nothing new. This has happened in the past, like the MERS-CoV Pandemic in 2012. 

The coronavirus is a type of common virus, and the way it spreads is similar to the common cold. This particular type of virus affects the nose, sinuses, and upper throat. Most coronaviruses are not dangerous, but there are some that can be deadly such as SARS, MERS, and the most recent COVID-19. 

MERS, or the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, is an acute viral respiratory illness caused by MERS-CoV, a type of coronavirus. It manifests with the following primary symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

The MERS-CoV timeline of events can provide an overview of how this type of disease was handled in the past.

This can give insightful points to fully understand how this kind of virus works.  

MERS-COV: Timeline of Events

MERS-COV timeline of events

September 2012: The beginning

The MERS-CoV timeline of events began on September 22, 2012.

  • The United Kingdom was the first to inform the World Health Organization (WHO) of a suspected novel coronavirus case. The person was reported to have acute respiratory syndrome with renal failure.
  • Admitted in Doha, Qatar, the patient was a 49-year old, male, Qatari national with travel history from Saudi Arabia.
  • A few days later, he was transferred to the UK. The Health Protection Agency of the UK then conducted a lab test, which yielded positive for the novel coronavirus.
  • This clinical sample was compared to another fatal case that happened earlier in the year. It was from a 60-year-old Saudi national.
  • Both samples were 99.5% similar, which confirmed that the two identical cases were caused by a new coronavirus.
  • No new cases surfaced in the next few weeks.
  • There was no evidence of human-to-human transmission at that time, but the WHO encouraged members of the state to continue with routine surveillance.

November 2012: Escalation of MERS-COV

In the MERS-Cov timeline of events, additional cases were escalated to the WHO by November, bringing the total to nine cases. This included five cases in Saudi Arabia with three deaths, two cases from Qatar, and two fatal ones from Jordan. 

The two fatal cases from Jordan were found to have happened in April 2012. This was the time that a few severe cases of pneumonia had also occurred in that country. The outbreak was investigated further. 

mers-cov timeline of events

February 2013: Human transmission

This was a significant time in the MERS-Cov timeline of events.

  • The first clear evidence of person-to-person transmission was found in Great Britain, where two people who had no travel history were infected. They had contact with a relative who also contracted the disease in Saudi Arabia.
  • The number of confirmed cases rose to 13 with seven deaths.
  • The WHO encouraged Member States to closely monitor cases of severe acute respiratory infection.
  • Unusual patterns were reviewed carefully and the testing for novel coronavirus was considered.

May 2013: MERS-CoV

In the MERS-CoV timeline of events, this was the first time experts gave the strain of novel coronavirus a name. It was called MERS-CoV by the Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses.

By this time the numbers had escalated to a total of 44 cases with 22 deaths. 

The following countries were affected during this time: Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), France, Germany, Tunisia, and the United Kingdom. 

February 2014: Possible link to camels

Researchers in the United States and Saudi Arabia had found evidence of MERS in single-hump camels.

  • Scientists took samples coming from all parts of Saudi Arabia.
  • Seventy-four percent of the camels were found to have the virus that were identical to the ones found in infected humans.
  • Younger camels were found to have had a high viral load, particularly in the nose area.
  • The possibility of the virus being airborne was also considered at this point of the MERS-CoV timeline of events.
  • Camels were also considered to have served as a reservoir of the virus, and the source of animal-to-human transmission.

mers-cov timeline of events

April 2014: Making its way to other countries

There was a significant jump in numbers at this point of the MERS-CoV timeline of events.

  • Additional countries in the Middle East were affected by the virus, such as Kuwait, Oman, and Yemen. Outside the Middle East, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Malaysia, Philippines, and the United States of America were also affected.
  • All persons in these cases had travel history from the Middle East.
  • A significant rise in the number of cases in Saudi Arabia was also recorded during this month.
  • Cases were mostly from Jeddah, and this prompted a risk-assessment mission by the WHO to review the upsurge.
  • Most cases came from one hospital that reported 45 cases, the highest among the 14 hospitals reviewed.
  • During this time, more than 60% of the cases reported were presumed to be acquired from a hospital setting.

May 2015: Surprising outbreak in Korea

In the MERS-Cov timeline of events, the largest outbreak outside of the Middle East happened in Seoul, South Korea.

  • Majority of the cases in South Korea at the time came from Samsung Medical Centre. People were exposed in the emergency room where a person with undisclosed travel history to the Middle East was treated. The hospital admitted their failure to control the infection and the spread of the disease.
  • For South Korea, the battle with the disease lasted until July 2015.
  • No additional cases or deaths were reported since then.
  • A total of 186 confirmed cases and 36 deaths were reported during this time.
  • Even so, the government continuously implemented intense care and contact management activities.

Since 2012, there have been 2,494 confirmed laboratory cases and a total of 858 deaths in 27 countries; 80% of these cases came from Saudi Arabia.

Human-to-human transmission of the virus is difficult unless there is close contact.

The cluster of cases discovered had been limited to family members, patients, and health care workers who encountered the infected. This was observed in healthcare facilities with inadequate control practices. 

Up to this day, there is still no vaccine or antiviral treatment for this virus.

The MERS-Cov timeline of events shows how fast an epidemic can easily progress to a pandemic that changes the course of history. And how strategic, decisive actions can help mitigate other coronavirus outbreaks, such as COVID-19.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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