(RxWiki News) Infections from MERS are still being discovered at a slow but steady pace. Several new cases have been reported in the Middle East this month.
The infection first appeared in 2012, and since that time has been under investigation by health officials and researchers around the globe.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported an additional four cases since mid-November, bringing global counts to 157 cases.
"Wash your hands frequently to help prevent infection."
The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) typically causes respiratory symptoms in patients, but can also cause gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, says WHO.
According to WHO, 157 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS have been discovered around the globe since September 2012, 66 of which have ended in the patient's death.
The latest discovered cases include a 47-year-old man in Kuwait, a 52-year-old man in Kuwait, a 75-year-old man in the United Arab Emirates and a 61-year-old man in Qatar.
The virus was initially discovered in Saudi Arabia, the country that has experienced the bulk of the discovered infections.
The University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) reported that Saudi Arabia has discovered two additional infections since mid-November, including one death, but WHO has not confirmed these reports.
The Saudi Arabian government reported in early November on the discovery of MERS in a camel that was linked to a human infection with the virus. WHO stressed that while this news is an important part of the investigation, it does not provide all the answers and doesn't necessarily point to camels as the key to the virus' transmission.
"The critical question that remains about this virus is the route by which humans are infected, and the way in which they are exposed. Most patients who have tested positive for MERS-CoV had neither a human source of infection nor direct exposure to animals, including camels," explained WHO.
"It is still unclear whether camels, even if infected with MERS-CoV, play a role in transmission to humans. Further genetic sequencing and epidemiologic data are needed to understand the role, if any, of camels in the transmission of MERS CoV to humans," WHO reported.
WHO has not recommended any restrictions on travel or trade or special border screenings based on the MERS illnesses. It has, however, asked for heightened surveillance of severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) around the globe, especially instances of SARI in recent travelers returning from the Middle East.