There is a developing situation in Saudi Arabia related to the Hajj pilgrimage. Two people have died of Mers virus:

Two more Saudi Arabian citizens have died after contracting the Mers virus, the authorities announced, just days before an estimate two million people are expected to travel to the country for the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

So I decided to look up the Mers virus on the CDC website. As this virus was first identified in 2012, it seems information is still in its infancy. At this point it seems clear that the virus is transmitted through close contact. But the close proximity of the masses during the pilgrimage could provide an explosive situation.

The main purpose of this post is to comment on a statement in the FAQ for the Mers virus on the CDC site. The FAQ states

Most people who got infected with MERS-CoV developed severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About half of them died (58/130). Some people were reported as having a mild respiratory illness.

and, separately,

Most people who have been confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection developed severe acute respiratory illness. They had fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

I wanted to point out the differences between these two statements. The former says ‘most people who got infected’ while the latter says ‘most people who have been confirmed’ and these two statements are not equivalent. Likely the latter is reality since we only bother to confirm a MERS-CoV infection if the symptoms are severe enough.

My suspicion is that many more people have had, or currently have, MERS-CoV. This is bad news because the outbreak is likely much larger than the currently stated 130 cases. But it is good news because likely the severity and mortality of the disease is not as severe as it currently seems.

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10 October 2013