During the summer of 2012, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a hitherto unknown coronavirus (CoV) was isolated from the sputum of a patient with acute pneumonia and renal failure.
Since the initial discovery, isolates of the virus have been described in the scientific literature, databases, and popular press under various names (e.g., human betacoronavirus 2c EMC, human betacoronavirus 2c England-Qatar, human betacoronavirus 2C Jordan-N3, betacoronavirus England 1) with novel coronavirus (NCoV) as the one used most often. As this lack of uniformity in virus nomenclature complicates communication both in the research field and with health care authorities, governments, and the general public, the Coronavirus Study Group (CSG) of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses took the lead to address this issue.
Given the experience in previous international public health events, WHO generally prefers that virus names do not refer to the region or place of the initial detection of the virus. This approach aims at minimizing unnecessary geographical discrimination that could be based on coincidental detection rather than on the true area of emergence of a virus. WHO did not convene a group to discuss the naming of this virus. The proposed name - MERS-CoV - represents a consensus that is acceptable to WHO. It was built on consultations with a large group of scientists. After careful consideration and broad consultation, the CSG has decided to call the new coronavirus Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). This name is endorsed by the discoverers of the virus and other researchers that pioneered MERS-CoV studies, by the World Health Organization, and by the Saudi Ministry of Health.
New MERS-CoV isolates or variants detected by reverse transcription (RT)-PCR may be provided with an affix, analogous to convention in influenza virus nomenclature (the host/country of origin plus the strain identification number/year; e.g., MERS-CoV Hu/Jordan-N3/2012). As our knowledge of the epidemiology and host preference of this virus is still incomplete, it seems prudent to refrain from labeling MERS-CoV a human coronavirus, at least for the time being.
The new virus is a coronavirus (what is coronavirus). Until 23 May 2013, MERS-CoV had frequently been referred to as a SARS-like virus. SARS spread like wildfire in 2002 and 2003, infecting 8,100 people and killing nearly 800.
The new virus is most closely related to coronaviruses that bats carry, but it probably didn't jump directly from bats to people. None of the people who got the disease had direct contact with bats, and the virus is not exactly the same as any known to infect bats.
The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) may likely be spread from person to person through close contact. However, this virus does not appear to spread very easily. In the UK, one infected person appears to have spread the virus to two family members. However, this is still being investigated. As of 29 May 2013, the World Health Organization is now warning that the MERS-CoV virus is a "threat to entire world."
The WHO said although this latest case shows evidence of person-to-person transmission, it still believes "the risk of sustained person-to-person transmission appears to be very low".
RISK VERY LOW, BUT VIRUSES CAN MUTATE
From September 2012 to 26 June 2013, WHO has been informed of a total of 77 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) , including 40 deaths.
Saudi Arabia: 6 people; 4 of them died
Qatar: 2 people; both survived
Jordan: 2 people; both died
UK: 3 people; 1 died, 1 receiving treatment, 1 recovered
... (See Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection update)
People who got infected with the novel coronavirus developed acute respiratory illness with symptoms of shortness of breath, fever, cough, difficulty breathing, and pneumonia. (More Coronavirus Symptoms)
There are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) . Medical care is supportive and to help relieve symptoms.
De Groot RJ, et al. "Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV): Announcement of the Coronavirus Study Group" J. Virol. July 2013 vol. 87 no. 14 7790-7792.
"Naming of the Novel Coronavirus" World Health Organization. 28 May 2013.
"Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) - update" World Health Organization. 26 June 2013.
"Novel coronavirus infection in the United Kingdom" World Health Organization. 23 September 2012.
Tina Hesman Saey (27 February 2013) "Scientists race to understand deadly new virus" ScienceNews.
"Overview of the Novel Coronavirus" National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. 21 February 2013.
Kate Kelland (13 February 2013) "New SARS-like virus shows person-to-person transmission" Reuters.
"Coronavirus infections" – update. World Health Organization.