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Deadly MERS Virus Circulates Among Arabian Camels

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Scientists have gotten close to pinning down the origin of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, a dangerous respiratory disease that emerged in Saudi Arabia 17 months ago.

It turns out the MERS virus has been circulating in Arabian camels for more than two decades, scientists report in a study published Tuesday.

So far MERS has sickened more than 180 people, killing at least 77 of them ā€” an alarming 43 percent. But scientists haven't been sure where the virus came from or how people catch it.

A report in the journal mBIO suggests the virus is ubiquitous among Saudi Arabian dromedary camels, the one-humped variety. The animals get the virus when they're young, and it often doesn't make them sick.

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