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Virus cases found
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 30 - 04 - 2014

The Ministry of Health announced on 26 April the detection of the first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), commonly known as the novel coronavirus, in Egypt, reports Reem Leila. The infected case is of a 27-year-old Egyptian engineer who arrived from Saudi Arabia. The patient was suspected of having the virus by the health quarantine authorities at Cairo International Airport and was later sent for medical treatment.
The infected person was tested for the virus in the hospital, and the results came out positive. He is currently hospitalised and will be under observation for some time.
Amr Kandil, spokesman for the Health Ministry on preventive medicine, said that the patient, who is from the Sharqiya governorate, was being treated and was in a stable condition. “Another case was detected on Sunday at the airport, and this patient is also under examination,” Kandil said, adding that he had no further details.
According to Kandil, the patient was in direct contact for 14 days with another patient in Saudi Arabia who tested positive for the virus. “The incubation period for the virus can last for 12 days. It can live outside the human body in a humid atmosphere for six days, and for three hours in a dry atmosphere,” he said.
People should protect themselves “by avoiding sick people. They should not touch infected areas and should not use the personal belongings of an infected person such as towels, bed sheets and covers. Avoid being in crowded areas and wear masks,” Kandil said.
The virus, which causes coughing, fever and pneumonia, has spread from the Gulf to Europe and has already caused dozens of deaths. Some 92 people have died and a further 313 others have been infected in Saudi Arabia, which is considered a centre for the virus since it was first detected there in 2012.
According to a recent study, the SARS-like novel coronavirus has been common in camels for at least 20 years and may have been transmitted directly from the animals to humans.
The virus, which has spread to countries including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Tunisia, Jordan, Britain, France, China, the Philippines and Malaysia, is less transmissible than the SARS virus that erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,422 people, of whom 916 died, or nine per cent of those who contracted the virus.
Experts are still struggling to understand MERS, for which there is no known vaccine.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed the new strain as being part of the coronavirus family, which also includes the SARS virus as well as the common cold. According to a WHO report, the new virus is different from SARS because it causes rapid kidney failure.
The WHO called on countries to “continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections” in general, adding that it was working to provide guidance related specifically to the coronavirus.
“Until more information is available, it is prudent to consider that the virus is likely to be more widely distributed than just in the two countries which have identified cases,” WHO officials cautioned.
Countries “should consider testing patients with unexplained pneumonia for the new coronavirus even in the absence of travel or other associations with the affected countries,” the WHO stated.
According to a study published by the journal of the American Society for Microbiology earlier this week, the new virus appears to be linked to viruses found in bats.
“The virus is related to viruses in bats found in Asia, and there are no human viruses closely related to it,” Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in The Netherlands, who led the study, told the journal.
“Therefore, we speculate that it comes from an animal source,” he added.

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