In brief: MERS may be more virulent than SARS
London – The new respiratory virus that emerged in the Middle East last year appears to make people sicker faster than SARS, but doesn’t seem to spread as easily, according to the latest detailed look at about four dozen cases in Saudi Arabia.
Since last September, the World Health Organization has confirmed 90 cases of MERS, the Middle East respiratory syndrome, including 45 deaths. Most cases have been in Saudi Arabia, but the mysterious virus has also been identified in countries including Jordan, Qatar, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Tunisia. MERS is related to SARS and the two diseases have similar symptoms including a fever, cough and muscle pain.
“At the moment, the virus is still confined (to the Middle East),” said Dr. Christian Drosten of the University of Bonn Medical Centre in Germany, who wrote an accompanying commentary. “But this is a coronavirus and we know coronaviruses are able to cause pandemics.”
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that mostly cause respiratory infections like the common cold, but it also includes SARS, the virus that killed about 800 people in a 2003 global outbreak.
Ban says Syrian war toll past 100,000
Damascus, Syria – The number of dead in Syria’s civil war has passed 100,000, the U.N. chief said Thursday, calling for urgent talks on ending 2 1/2 years of violence even as President Bashar Assad’s government blasted the United States as an unsuitable peace broker.
In the latest example of the relentless carnage, a car bomb killed at least 10 people and wounded 66 in a pro-regime, residential area near the capital.
All international attempts to broker a political solution to the Syrian civil war have failed. Despite a stalemate that has settled in for months, both sides still believe they can win the war and have placed impossible conditions for negotiations.
“There is no military solution to Syria,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters at the United Nations. “There is only a political solution, and that will require leadership in order to bring people to the table.”
He spoke ahead of talks with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said the death toll had risen from nearly 93,000 just over a month ago to more than 100,000.