The human coronaviruses (CoV) include HCoV-229E, HCoV-OC43, HCoV-NL63, and HCoV-HKU1, some of which have been known for decades. The severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) CoV briefly emerged into the human population but was controlled. In 2012, another novel severely human pathogenic CoV—the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)-CoV—was identified in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; 80% of over 2000 human cases have been recorded over five years. Targeted research remains key to developing control strategies for MERS-CoV, a cause of mild illness in its camel reservoir. A new therapeutic toolbox being developed in response to MERS is also teaching us more about how CoVs cause disease. Travel-related cases continue to challenge the world’s surveillance and response capabilities, and more data are needed to understand unexplained primary transmission. Signs of genetic change have been recorded, but it remains unclear whether there is any impact on clinical disease. How camels came to carry the virus remains academic to the control of MERS. To date, human-to-human transmission has been inefficient, but virus surveillance, characterisation, and reporting are key to responding to any future change. MERS-CoV is not currently a pandemic threat; it is spread mainly with the aid of human habit and error.
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