Is the world on the verge of a pandemic? There are three reasons to think so. Two flu viruses are active, and a virus that bears a resemblance to SARS has cropped up in the Middle East. Each has devastating potential, but many early warnings of past pandemics have failed to materialize.
The World Health Organization is warning health care workers everywhere to suspect a disease called Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, whenever they see a case of unexplained pneumonia.
Monday’s warning comes at the end of a six-day WHO investigation in Saudi Arabia, where 40 of the 55 cases of the respiratory disease have occurred. Sixty percent of those people with known infections died.
In the photograph, men outside a hospital in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, wear surgical masks as a precaution against infection with a coronavirus. Photograph by Stringer/Reuters /Landov