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Middle East Coronavirus Does Not Have Pandemic Potential

MONDAY, July 8 (HealthDay News) -- The new Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) does not yet have pandemic potential, according to a study published online July 5 in The Lancet.

Romulus Breban, Ph.D., from the Emerging Diseases Epidemiology Unit at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, and colleagues used data from the World Health Organization summary and subsequent reports as well as data from laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV to estimate the virus transmissibility and epidemic potential. The basic reproduction number (R0) was estimated and used as a measure of the interhuman transmissibility of MERS-CoV. Two scenarios were considered depending on the interpretation of the MERS-CoV cluster-size data.

The researchers found that in the most optimistic and pessimistic scenarios, the MERS CoV R0 was 0.60 and 0.69, respectively, compared with 0.80 for prepandemic severe acute respiratory syndrome-CoV. Under the most pessimistic scenario, eight or more secondary infections caused by the next index patient would translate into a 5 percent or higher chance that the revised MERS-CoV R0 would exceed 1 and might have pandemic potential.

"In conclusion, our analysis confirms the importance of enhanced surveillance of MERS-CoV infection and an active search for its animal host, particularly in the Middle East where MERS-CoV infection is most prevalent," the authors write. "Close monitoring of cases and contact tracing are of high priority to limit transmission, gather high-quality data to update the R0 estimates, and decrease opportunities for viral adaptation to interhuman transmission."

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