Soaring MERS Cases Cause Pandemic Jitters, but Causes Are Unclear

The MERS virus is related to the SARS virus, which spread around the world in 2003 and killed almost 800 people. Since MERS was discovered in 2012, there has been a steady trickle of cases, the vast majority of them in Saudi Arabia. By late March, the World Health Organization (WHO) had counted 199 cases worldwide, including 84 deaths.

But in the past few weeks, the numbers have shot up. Saudi Arabia is announcing new cases almost every day, most of them in Jeddah, a city in the western part of the country. Yesterday alone, the kingdom reported 24 new cases; another 12 were reported today.