The life-threatening MERS coronavirus that has emerged in the Middle East could spread faster and wider during two international mass gatherings involving millions of people in the next few months, according to researchers who describe the most likely pathways of international spread based upon worldwide patterns of air travel.
Researchers led by Dr. Kamran Khan of St. Michael's Hospital encouraged health care providers to learn from the experience of SARS by anticipating rather than reacting to the introduction of MERS in travelers returning from the Middle East. SARS, which was also caused by a previously unknown coronavirus, killed 800 people worldwide a decade ago, including 44 in Toronto, and cost the Canadian economy an estimated $2 billion.
The MERS coronavirus, which appears to have emerged in the Middle East in early 2012, has spread to several countries in Western Europe and North Africa where there have been localized clusters of cases. Worldwide about 80 cases have been confirmed, with a mortality rate of more than 50 per cent.