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Experts Watch MERS Outbreak for Signs That It Could Spread



For VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

Experts are watching a deadly viral outbreak in the Middle East for signs that it could spread around the world.
David Swerdlow studies the spread of disease across large populations. He is leading the US centers for Disease Control and Prevention response to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS. Mr. Swerdlow says 30 to 40 percent of people who got MERS have died. He says infected people pass the virus which has spread to several countries. There is no treatment or vaccine.

MERS is a member of the viral family of germs that cause the common cold and severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. That disease was first reported in China 2003. It infected thousands of people and killed hundreds before it was contained. Amesh Adalja is with the Infectious Disease Society of America. He says, so far, MERS has not spread as easily as SARS. MERS first appeared in September of 2012.

The World Health Organization reports 261 infections and 93 deaths from MERS. Most reported cases have been in Saudi Arabia. In April, there was a sharp rise in cases there. Some health experts fear that means the MERS virus has changed, or mutated. But the CDC's David Swerdlow sasys DNA research suggests there has not been a major change. Scientists still do not know a lot about MERS. They do not even know where it came from, although they suspect camels. On may 2nd, the CDC reported the first case of MERS in the US. Officials said the patient had been in Saudi Arabia in April.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Alex Villarreal.

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