Anytime a novel virus infects human populations, scientists focus on tracing its origins. And this time their search led to the humped dromedary.
After a Saudi Arabian national died unexpectedly last September, scientists have been tracking the emergence of a new virus, never before seen in people, that has since been identified as a coronavirus, part of the same family that produced SARS. As of last week, the World Health Organization reported that a total of 94 people have been infected and 46 people have died from the infection. Known as Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), it causes severe respiratory illness, pneumonia, fever and coughing. So far, cases have been reported in nine countries, most of them in the Middle East, but international travel may have taken the virus to France, Germany, Italy and the U.K.