July 4, 2013
TORONTO – The new MERS coronavirus currently doesn’t spread well
enough among people to trigger a pandemic, says a new study that
calculates the rate at which the virus is transmitting person to person.
But the senior author says the pattern of how the virus is spreading
now cannot be used to predict whether MERS will become a bigger threat
in the future.
“There is absolutely no guarantee that this virus will stay as it is.
It could very well follow the same path as SARS did 10 years ago,” Dr.
Arnaud Fontanet, who heads the emerging diseases epidemiology unit at
the Institut Pasteur in Paris, said in an interview.
Others too say the study should not be used to write off the new virus.
“The virus has shown a potential for human-to-human transmission. And
whether such transmission is sustained depends on the intensity of
control measures as well as the characteristics of the people involved
in transmission,” said Marc Lipsitch, an infectious diseases specialist
who teaches at Harvard University.
“For that reason, I think it’s premature to say that this virus does not present a pandemic threat.”
Using the publicly available data on MERS cases, Fontanet and his
co-authors set out to figure out what the basic reproduction number for
the new coronavirus has been to date.
There are many holes in the available data. For instance, Saudi
Arabia, which is responsible for 63 of the 77 confirmed MERS cases,
often does not disclose if new infections have links to previous ones –
which might mean they caught the virus from another person – or are what
are called sporadic cases, people thought to have been infected by an
animal or exposure to the virus in the environment.
The authors tried to work around the gaps by calculating best- and
worst-case scenarios. Both, it turns out, came up with a reproductive
number of less than one, which suggests the virus doesn’t yet have
pandemic potential, they said. Those rates were 0.60 and 0.69
Complete article: http://globalnews.ca/news/694212/mers-virus-doesnt-yet-have-pandemic-potential-but-that-could-change-study/