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Deadly Middle East virus unlikely to cause Sars-like epidemic

Published on Jul 26, 2013 6:38 AM

LONDON (REUTERS) - Despite its high current death rate, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) that emerged in Saudi Arabia last year is unlikely to cause a Sars-like epidemic because it is not spreading as easily, scientists said on Friday.

In the fullest clinical analysis yet of the new virus, British and Saudi researchers said that while there are many similarities between Mers and severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) - which emerged in China in 2002 and killed around 800 people worldwide - there are also important differences.

The Mers coronavirus, which can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia, emerged last year and has spread from the Gulf to France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and Britain. The World Health Organisation (WHO) puts the latest global toll at 45 deaths from 90 laboratory-confirmed cases.

The WHO issued its travel guidance on Thursday for pilgrims going to the annual haj in Saudi Arabia and said the health risk posed by the Mers virus was "very low".

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