World experts pool knowledge against killer MERS virus

Abu Dhabi: Around 80 of the world`s leading scientists, doctors and public health officials met in Cairo to discuss building defences against a deadly virus known as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

UAE daily The National said that the World Health Organisation convening such a meeting "is both worrying and reassuring".

"Medical experts and public-health authorities are obviously taking the problem seriously, which is a good start to managing it," it said.

However, the experts admitted that they know very little about the coronavirus that causes the disease - not even where it comes from, or how it is transmitted.

The nearest related virus is found in bats, and it is speculated that it passes to camels via dates infected by bat droppings and then onto humans. Transmission from camel to human - and between humans - is also not fully understood.

"The ailment`s name is based on the fact that the majority of the 60 cases - and 38 deaths - identified worldwide starting in April 2012 have originated in the Middle East. The handful of cases in western Europe have involved travellers from the Middle East," the newspaper said.

So far, at least, the pneumonia-like sickness the virus causes has not been very contagious. There is no "sustained community transmission".

However, the experts were concerned that the occasional MERS victims could become what they call a "super-spreader" - a person with an increased ability to infect others.