Hypochondriacs, don’t read this

The novel coronavirus seen under an electron microscope.

The novel coronavirus seen under an electron microscope.


The World Health Organization director this week sounded the “alarm bells,” calling a new virus a “threat to the entire world.” 

Since September, only 49 people have been diagnosed as having Middle East Respiratory Symptom Coronavirus, or MERS-CoV. So how bad can it be? This is what we know:

It’s deadly: Twenty-seven people with MERS-CoV have died.

The symptoms: are not uncommon:  fever, cough, trouble breathing, upset tummy. So those with mild symptoms may not even be diagnosed. Patients have experienced pneumonia and acute kidney failure.

Where: Most cases are linked to Saudi Arabia, but eight countries are involved, including Tunisia, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Britain and France.

How do you catch it? WHO isn’t sure how the virus is spreading. Fruit bats may be the source for the virus, but humans can transmit it to each other. Sneezing? Other bodily fluids? Scientists don’t know. Outbreaks have occurred in health care facilities. The French are handing out leaflets at airports to travelers to the Middle East giving them two pieces of advice: wash your hands and avoid contact with animals, according to  The Wall Street Journal.

Incubation period: May be seven to 10 days. “Patients with respiratory symptoms returning from the Middle East or exposed to a confirmed case should be isolated and investigated for MERS-CoV,” French scientists reported in The Lancet medical journal this week.

New cases: Saudi Arabia confirmed five more cases on Wednesday.

Cure: There isn’t any. There’s no rapid diagnostic test or vaccine for MERS-CoV available either.

Meanwhile, there’s more bad news from The Lancet. Tamiflu hasn’t helped some patients in Shanghai suffering from  bird flu — the pesky A (H7N9), Chinese doctors found. The good news: Tamiflu did help 12 out of the 14 patients discussed in the latest  report.