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MERS virus UAE

Wednesday 16 January 2019 (UAE)   

MERS virus Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, UAE

Warning: We are not a medical authority. Neither is Wikipedia, the Huffington Post, The National, the Gulf News, your Facebook or Twitter friends, the taxi driver this morning who has a brother working in a hospital in Upper Saniyastan. We regard sources such as WHO or the CDC as authoritative. We admit it's possible that they might be behind some sort of conspiracy to trick people into buying more medicine, but don't believe it. If such a conspiracy really was true, then we are all screwed in so many ways from here to Pluto that the MERS virus becomes an insignificant concern.

Feb 2015 update: The number of infections and deaths from MERS peaked in Apr or May 2014, and by Jun 2014 had dropped sharply. New cases are still appearing, and people still die but the rate is down to less than 10 cases and 1 death per week in 2015 so far. As of mid-Feb 2015, total cases about 980, total deaths about 360. Most still in Saudi Arabia or for people who have a connection to Saudi Arabia (travelling citizens, expat workers, or visitors to Saudi Arabia.

TL;DR version (Apr-May 2014): MERS is a deadly virus with flu-like symptons, killing about a third of confirmed cases since 2012. Not all cases are thought to be reported. Those that are, are usually quarantined. Most cases originate in Saudi Arabia. No cure or vaccine available (as of May 2014). Number of cases worldwide more than doubled from mid-April to mid-May 2014 from about 250 to over 500, and number of deaths increased 50% from about 100 to almost 150. Victims recover on their own within a week or two, or die.

The disease is infectious via air and body contact. Don't spit on your friends. Possibly originated in bats and transferred to humans via camels. Avoiding camels and bats might reduce the risk of contracting the MERS illness, but won't eliminate it.

Total deaths from Sep 2012 to mid-Apr 2014 was about 100, out of about 250 reported cases, with a sharp increase to about 150 deaths out of 540 confirmed cases by mid-May 2014. Most infections are in or originate in Saudi Arabia, and as of May 2014 all cases have originated in the Middle East. The handful of reported cases in Europe, Asia, and the US have a direct or indirect connection to Middle Eastern countries. Unknown how many cases go unreported since symptoms are similar to influenza (flu), and many people recover on their own without visiting a hospital or doctor. Medicine only helps to alleviate symptoms of coughing, runny nose, headaches, general malaise; it does not kill or cure the virus. Antibiotics are ineffective as MERS Coronavirus is a virus, not a bacteria. MERS is thought to be similar to SARS, less contagious but more lethal. SARS death rate was about 5%-10% (check, not confirmed), MERS death rate about 40% (of reported cases) as of Apr 2014, down to about 27% as of mid-May 2014.

For some perspective, influenza (flu) is estimated by the CDC to directly or indirectly kill about 1,000 people per day (worldwide), figure based on research, peer review, large-scale analysis of data, estimates based on statistics supplied by hospitals and medical authorities in the USA and around the world. The Huffington Post estimate is substantially lower, perhaps 1 or 2 people per day or per month, based on an opinion from a man with a doctoral degree in an unrelated field (political science or history or something). The UAE warning reportedly sent by the UAE Ministry of Health in Apr 2014 about avoiding malls, schools, for 72 hours was a hoax, the ministry said they did not send such a warning.

Country First
MERS case
Deaths Notes Last
Austria 02 Oct 2014 1   Saudi national who traveled to Austria 05 Feb 2015
France 22 Apr 2013  
Patient was in UAE, diagnosed and died in France.  
Greece 18 Apr 2014     Greek citizen resident in Saudi Arabia.  
Italy 03 Jun 2013  
Patient was in Jordan, one colleage, one relative also infected.  
Malaysia 17 Apr 2014  
Patient travelled to Saudi Arabia in Mar 2014.  
Qatar Sep 2012  
Saudi Arabia Sep 20121  
Turkey   1   Worker in Saudi Arabia 05 Feb 2015
First death Al Ain Apr 2014, second in Abu Dhabi Feb 2015. 12 Feb 2015
USA 02 May 2014 2
Patient from Saudi Arabia, second case 11 May 2014. Both ok. 15 May 2014
Yemen 13 Apr 2014  
  1. Timeline needs to be checked - Sep report refers to a death in Jun 2012 of a Saudi Arabian citizen, the first confirmed death due to MERS (Novel Coronavirus as it was known then)?

History and timeline of MERS

  • 11 Feb 2015 - second UAE death from MERS reported, 38 year old expat male in Abu Dhabi, died 06 February 2015. Total 977 infections worldwide reported to WHO, total 358 or 359 deaths since September 2012.
  • 12 May 2014 - total of 536 reported MERS cases worldwide, includes 145 deaths (WHO data).
  • 12 May 2014 - second reported US case of MERS, unrelated to the first, also from Saudi, expected to recover.
  • 02 May 2014 - first reported MERS case in the USA - a man who was in Saudi Arabia, he recovered.
  • Apr 2014 - new deaths and cases in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Philippines, Yemen?
  • 17 Apr 2014 - first reported death in Malaysia due to MERS, of a Malaysian who traveled to Saudi Arabia in Mar 2014 where he drank camel milk. The UAE reported an additional 4 cases related to the death in Al Ain on 10 Apr 2014. Worldwide total of 243 MERS infections and 93 deaths.
  • 16 Apr 2014 - WHO says the UAE reported an additional 10 MERS cases (no additional deaths) on 13 and 14 Apr 2014, as a result of screening contacts of the previously reported MERS death in Al Ain on 10 Apr 2014. MERS statistics from WHO are 238 reported MERS cases and 92 deaths.
  • 14 Apr 2014 - WHO statistics are 228 reported MERS cases since Sep 2012, and 92 deaths. Confirmed by laboratory tests, include 15 cases with 2 deaths in Saudi Arabia, and one death in the UAE.
  • 10 Apr 2014 - a Filipino OFW died in Al Ain, UAE, after contracting the MERS virus. First reported 14 Apr 2014?
  • May 2013- named as MERS-CoV by the Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses.
  • 11 Nov 2013 - Saudi Arabian MOH announced that a case of MERS-CoV had been found in a camel linked to a human MERS case in Saudi Arabia.
  • Sep 2012 - first cases reported or confirmed, referring to the June 2012 death, and a Qatari citizen flown to the UK for treatment in Sep 2012?
  • Jun 2012 - first MERS death - a Saudi national.
  • Apr 2012 - MERS first discovered? Named as the Novel Coronavirus?

UAE Ministry of Health MERS virus warning (hoax)

An email or Facebook (or both) warning started to spread in mid-April 2014 after the death of a Filipino health worker in Al Ain from the MERS virus. The warning claimed to be from the UAE Ministry of Health but was a hoax. Original source of message unknown, first seemed to appear on about 15 or 16 Apr 2014 (earlier references seem to be backdated, not originally from that date). As with many similar hoaxes and scams, people are fooled because of laziness - it's easier to believe a paragraph of dramatic writing than to spend a bit of time investigating the truth of it. The text of the message is (different versions seen):

  1. Dear all UAE residence Kindly as per UAE health authority avoid any hot spots such: shopping malls, hospitals, parks, public places, water parks and beaches for the next 72 hours due to the spread of the new killing virus (Corona) which has been discovered recently in UAE - Al Ain and other parts of UAE including dubai, Ajman and sharjah, until further notice (it was discovered in al Ain and al ready 5 ppl died coz of it and they are Asian - Filipino nationals) Keep forwarding as it is fast spreading.
  2. Dear all UAE residents. Kindly as per UAE Health Authority, avoid any hot spots such as shopping malls, hospitals, parks, public places, water parks and beaches for the next 72 hours due to the spread of the new killing virus (Coronavirus) which has been discovered recently in UAE - Al Ain and other parts of the UAE including Dubai, Ajman and Sharjah, until further notice (it was discovered in Al Ain and already 5 people died because of it and they are Asian - Filipino nationals) Keep forwarding as it is a fast spreading disease.

Version 1 seems to be the original. Version 2 appears to be just version 1 with a couple of minor grammar corrections. Both versions make a number of errors and false claims:

  • The UAE Ministry of Health issued a public statement that they did not send the email (yes they could be lying but we think it's more likely than an anonymous internet user made up the email, especially since no one has claimed to be the original source, or has been able to show the original statement from the UAE MOH).
  • The virus was not "discovered recently in UAE". It was discovered about 2 years ago in Saudi Arabia, and in the UAE some time after that. It's true there was a recent death in Al Ain in Apr 2014, but it was not the first MERS death.
  • The virus has not been evident in other parts of the UAE - Dubai, Ajman, Sharjah. It has been found in Al Ain (Abu Dhabi emirate) mostly.
  • The figure of 5 people dying is incorrect. As of Apr 2014, close to 100 people have died from the MERS virus since Sep 2012.
  • It is not a "fast spreading disease" compared to many other much more virulent diseases in existence. If it was, then there would have been many more than 100 deaths since April 2012 when it was first discovered.

Dramatic headlines in the press

  • "Deadly Viral Disease MERS Spreads From Middle East to Southeast Asia" - Wall Street Journal (WSJ), 17 Apr 2014. And we thought the WSJ was less sensationalist than most publications. One Malaysian man died after a visit to Saudi Arabia, and one Filipino arrived in the Philippines with the disease from the UAE related to the death in Al Ain. So apparently after thousands of flights and millions of travellers going back and forth, it's taken 2 years for a "deadly viral disease" to spread to Asia from Saudi Arabia.
  • "Deadly Virus Surges Through Gulf States" - Voice of America (VoA), 16 Apr 2014. More people died from overeating in April 2014 than from MERS. Perhaps Chicken Little is the Editor-in-Chief for VoA.
  • "New Virus Is 'A Threat To The Entire World'" - Huffington Post, 29 May 2013. Maybe. Any new virus potentially is. It sounds like overstating the obvious, and reinforces our opinion that the HP is a threat to people's intelligence.

References, sources

  • www.who.int/csr/disease/coronavirus_infections/en/ - includes information on the MERS-CoV.
  • www.who.int/csr/disease/coronavirus_infections/faq/en/ - FAQs about Coronavirus strains - common cold, influenza (flu), MERS, SARS.

Other headings and notes

  • MERS virus Abu Dhabi, (Al Ain), Dubai, UAE.
  • MERS virus symptoms: MERS manifests itself as a mild to severe respiratory illness. Symptons are fever (high temperature), coughing, shortness of breath. Victims either recover after a week or two, or die.
  • MERS news, CDC, wiki, conspiracy, in USA, Saudi Arabia, United States, in the US, 2014.
  • Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), corona virus, novel coronavirus.
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), common cold, flu, birdflu.


  • Parent category - home, warnings, medical? Al Ain (or related)?
  • Child pages - none.
  • Related pages - news and media in UAE. Health departments. Government.
Last update Saturday 14-Feb-2015. Page development 1H 2T 3D 4L 5C.
Related pages
Related websites (new window)
  • www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/MERS/ - Center for Disease Control (CDC), USA, section on MERS-CoV.
  • www.dha.gov.ae - Dubai Health Authority (DHA) official website. No obvious section or information about MERS found.
  • www.haad.ae/haad/tabid/1380/Default.aspx - Abu Dhabi Health Authority (HAAD) official website MERS Coronavirus section (or follow links to Home > Public Health > Coronavirus). News updates and FAQs specific to the UAE. Includes the question but no answer about whether or not it's safe to eat camel meat or drink camel milk.
  • www.moh.gov.ae/en/ - UAE Ministry of Health official website. No obvious section about MERS found, although there are some general Health Tips to help avoid respiratory illnesses - wash hands, don't touch infected people, etc but nothing about avoiding camels in Saudi Arabia. Also some of the WHO FAQs about MERS reproduced in a PDF download.
  • www.who.int/csr/don/en/ - World Health Organisation (WHO) Disease Outbreak News (DON) - latest alerts of MERS and other disease news, without hyperbole or drama.


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