MERS case reported in Spain, Ministry confirms

This undated electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows a novel coronavirus particle, also known as the MERS virus, center. The mysterious new respiratory virus that originated in the Middle East spreads easily between people and appears more deadly than SARS, doctors reported Wednesday, June 19, 2013 after investigating the biggest outbreak in Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/NIAID - RML) AP Photo/NIAID - RML

MADRIDThe Middle East respiratory infection dubbed "MERS" has spread to Spain.

Spain's Health Ministry says the country has its first case of the new respiratory virus known as MERS and the female victim is believed to have contracted the virus in Saudi Arabia.

MERS is a virus in the same family of infections such as the common cold and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), which killed about 800 people during a 2003 pandemic. Research suggests MERS is deadlier than SARSbecause it kills a higher percentage of those infected. However, another study reported around the same time that the illness is not likely to cause a pandemic on the level of SARS, because many of the MERS cases were in people who already had chronic health conditions. SARS, on the other hand, infected healthy and unhealthy individuals alike.

Bats in Saudi Arabia appear to be the source of the mysterious virus, according to an August study.

A Spain Health Ministry statement says the Moroccan-born Spanish resident was admitted Nov. 1 to a Madrid hospital. She had been in Saudi Arabia in October and was diagnosed there with pneumonia.

The ministry said Thursday the woman is progressing favorably and her case poses no public health threat.

Since MERS was first identified in Sept. 2012, the World Health Organization has received reports of 150 infections, including 64 deaths, the agency said in a Nov. 4 statement.

Most of the cases and deaths have occurred in Saudi Arabia.

Patients diagnosed to date have had respiratory disease as their primary illness, but diarrhea, kidney failure and shock have been seen in patients with severe complications.

MERS cases have popped up in other European countries to date, including France, Italy and the United Kingdom. Those cases were linked to people who had traveled to the Middle East.

U.S. health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been monitoring the overseas outbreak, but so far there have not been any reports of the infection in the country.

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