A Disease That’s Three Times More Deadly Than SARS Just Reached The United States

Lily Kuo | Quartz | May 3, 2014

A viral and often fatal respiratory disease in the Middle East has taken a turn for the worse and is spreading throughout the region, as well as to parts of Asia, Europe and now the United States. US officials have just confirmed that a man who fell ill after returning from Saudi Arabia about a week ago has Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Earlier, Saudi officials reported 26 more infections of the disease, which first appeared in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Cases of MERS surged last month by 89 new cases. The kingdom has seen a total of 371 cases and 107 deaths from the disease since it was identified two years ago. There is no cure or vaccine for MERS, which can cause pneumonia and kidney failure, but this week scientists from the US, Hong Kong and China said they discovered antibodies that can prevent the disease from infecting human cells.

What’s especially worrying about MERS is its resemblance to another viral respiratory disease that turned into an epidemic and killed almost 800 people around the world in 2002 and 2003—Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, better known as just SARS. Although MERS appears to be spreading more slowly than SARS did, it is far more lethal. Laurie Garrett, a global health expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said about 31% of MERS patients have died from the disease, compared with 8% of SARS cases...